18 February 2010

thankful thursday

First of all, thanks to those of you who are helping me feel better about my blog visitors - whether by email, commenting or just telling me it was someone I knew all along but didn't realize it...anyone else out there, just keep it coming, okay? Especially you, Conneticut Reader, whoever you are...

Early this morning I wanted to post a Thankful Thursday and spent a bit too long pondering what I should say. I had some things on my mind I could have said, but it just wasn't "it" - those thoughts are not finished mulling just yet. So, I decided to go about my day and by the time it has come to an end, I have a post full of thankfulness:

~ Great friends...I visited with my "waiting room friend." I met her in a waiting room over two years ago when our boys were in occupational therapy together as peers...we chatted for about an hour every single week and struck up a much-needed, heartfelt friendship. Guess where we met up today? A WAITING ROOM. Our boys are no longer in therapy together, but we share a couple of other doctors, one of them a regular appointment, so we started deliberately coinciding our appointments to create visit time since our lives run in the fast lane too often. It was a definite joy to see her today.

~ More great friends...after that appointment was finished (which is not close to home for us) we dropped by to visit some other friends over that way.

~ Cul-de-sacs....the friend we stopped to visit lives in a cul-de-sac and we arrived armed with scooters and a ridey-toy for Baby J. And the kids ran and rode and played and laughed. And it was good.

~Dinner...out. With those same friends. And inexpensive. Chinese dinner, in fact. YUM.

~Bedtime...for the kids who ran and played and laughed all day. It is much needed for this mommy to have some down time. Because even happy kids sometimes need....reminding...again and again. Maybe when they're super happy they need it more? Either way, bedtime is here.

~Daddy/Hubby...who is home for the second night in a row to tuck in his sweet children after working insane hours for a solid week. At least tomorrow's paycheck will reflect it. For which I am also very thankful.

~JAG...Season 10. Yes, it's an older series. No, we're not (yet) into some of the newer ones (Lost, Bones, etc...), though they do look good and our day will come. But first, we will finish out JAG, whose first DVD graced our mailbox today (then we'll watch the last season of Monk when it comes out and catch up on Psych before moving on....the joys of not having cable mean no commercials, at least!)

(Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to settle in with my love for our long-awaited DVD...if we hurry, we may get to watch two episodes before it's too late...!)

16 February 2010

editing and stats

Okay, does anyone else "publish" their newest and latest blog post, click over to view it's beauty, then notice glaring errors like missed commas and such? I hate that feeling. I have to go back and correct them every single time. (If I missed some you see, please don't tell me.)

And while we're on a random topic here, let's hit another one: I know I've recently asked for delurkers to speak up. Twice. This is really important to me. I realize that I get numerous visitors that do a search, click over, see it's not what they were looking for and move on, never to be seen or heard from again. That's not who I'm talking about...

I'm speaking to those of you who, on my statcounter, have repeatedly popped in from a scattering of places:

New York

(I'm working to assume that those from London, Singapore, Russia, a military base and a few others are more happenstance than returning readers. However, that can apply, too.)

....to my knowledge you've never said "Hi!"...it leads me to wonder how many lurkers I truly have out there. Come on, people. Work with me here. I'm not that comfortable with so many hiding out. And I'm really a nice person! (Well...sometimes my kids may disagree and I can think of a few others that may have choice words about me, but in general, I think I'm fairly nice.)

I DO respect your need to stay private as well - after all, that's my whole point. I value my privacy and therefore want to know who is reading everything on my mind.

So. If you are one of those who cannot bear to leave a comment, even to delurk, would you kindly email me and just tell me that?


It's not hard to do.

And maybe it's time to edit my statcounter. Anyone have a good one they can recommend?

12 February 2010


Quite often, when I settle into my van for a drive that's farther than the library, I pull out my cell phone. I have a shared plan with lots of roll over minutes, free long distance and now a few frequently used numbers aren't even using up minutes! I use this time to stay in touch with a few friends who live far away or chat with my mom -- easing the solitude that mommy-hood often brings.

But recently, I find that I often pause as I pull out the phone, and return it to my pocket. I hear a call coming in. But not on the phone. I hear Someone asking for those moments of my time.

When I was single, I used my car time to sing and pray and call on my Father's name - loudly, deeply and with great satisfaction and watering of my spirit. The more people in the car, the less freedom to have such a personal, private time. These days, I am being still. And knowing God. Praying in a quieter way, flitting from one thing on my heart to another, allowing time to ponder these things, mull them over. I am slowing down to listen to His voice a little more often.

I still chat with my friends on the phone during my drive; but there are a lot of drives now that find me turned to another place, whether I am alone or with a van full of children. I am making or taking an important call.

11 February 2010

chicken soup for the soul

A little over a year ago someone gave my husband a cool chicken noodle soup gift set - it came with two soup mugs and a quaint container to hold the soup packets. I liked it!

So I decided to keep it for my own personal use, and I believe it suits that use perfectly. Typically, if you sneak a peak inside, you will find one of two views:

I keep it in the pantry-cabinet area of the kitchen for emergency and easy access. My husband partakes, but at least he has the good taste to know that dark chocolate is better, so I'm willing to share with him. Usually. I find that the better the quality of chocolate, the more satisfying and therefore the slower I am able to eat it. The M&M's disappeared rather fast this past weekend, so the current stash is the Dove...it should hold out a bit longer (unless, of course, an emergency situation should arise).

I have a cool Choxie box that I saved from a while back (now those.....oh MY G O O D N E S S). If you have never seen their boxes, they are uniquely designed and open in unusual ways. This one, if you pull out a lower tab, two (stacked) drawers open. I'm thinking it might be a nice secondary stash, perhaps in my closet, away from the greedy fingers of my husband. Otherwise, I feel compelled to find another fun use for it.

Do you have a secret stash, chocolate or otherwise?
If so, how and where do you hide it?
(I promise, I'm not going to come in and steal it!)

10 February 2010

wedding present

Hannah, this one's especially for you. I hope you get a good laugh!

I have known Hannah for many, many years. Sadly, most of those years were spent NOT staying in touch. But, facebook was very good to me when I re-friended her!

When I say many, many years, I mean since High School, which puts us closing in on . . . what? 20 years...whoa. Let's move forward, shall we?

I knew her when she was getting married. I didn't see her much as we lived in different states, but I did get a wedding invitation from her while I was living in Seattle, not quite yet engaged to my own wonderful man. And while I knew that there was no practical way to go to her wedding, I was thrilled to my toes for her. And wanted to send her a wedding present. (Never got one, did you, Hannah? Read on dear friend...)

In my total and complete inexperience with what to buy for a wedding present, I found something that seemed like a cool idea. It probably is still a decent present idea, truth be told. At least not a total flop of an idea like some I'm sure I've ventured forward with. That poor present never made it out the door. Just. Didn't. I can't recall a specific reason, but I procrastinate quite well. I kept intending to send it, I know that much.

In my total and complete pack-rat life, it moved back to my current state with me as I planned my own wedding the following year. And then to the first house we bought, no longer planning to send it Hannah as it had been a few years and, well, the shame of it all. I finally took it out of its now-beat-up packaging thinking perhaps I would use it. I didn't. The inner seals were (mostly) left in tact.

Eight years later, that poor gift made it's way to my new house, where we currently live. And left in the bonus room upstairs, tucked away from the unsavory reminder of my total and complete slackness.

Last night, I went to the bonus room and saw it lying on a shelf. And almost died when I realized that thirteen years ago I bought it for a friend I was now back in touch with. It just seemed so...blog-worthy.

So, without further ado:
Congratulations on your marriage, my friend! I hope you have a long and happy life together, and I know that when you send me your address, you will absolutley have SO much use for this wedding gift....
Love, cjoy

Yes, feel free to turn it down and feel free to laugh until you cry. No offense will be taken. And should you choose to accept this belated gift, I will not promise to send it this week. :)

09 February 2010

pity party

Just a little, tiny pity party, I promise.

The world of allergies just feels so lonely and isolated sometimes...parties are a pain because if you want to have cake and pizza, you must take your own. Being invited to dinner at someone's home, such as spontaneously on a Sunday afternoon, feels intrusive because I must first query every single ingredient that went into the meal, then determine which family members are safe to eat each thing, if any. (To expound, I am out of onion powder and wanted to buy more...but the Great Value "brand" at Wally World is unsafe due to cross contamination, as are many of their products...they did not have a name brand choice that I could find, so I still need onion powder until I go to another store; if my friends cooked with it, Miss C and possibly Baby J could not eat that food.) Dining out any place other than our handful of regular restaurants is a massive undertaking as we learn a new menu, talk to uninformed staff and question the chef multiple times on the different issues each person has. I can barely enjoy my food once that's over.

And it's not just food - it's cats and dogs, too. It keeps us from play dates and popping in at a friends' home, and ends regular visits when a new dog joins a family. I mean, I'm happy for them, but I feel so cheated and helpless to change things. Point in case: I rarely even visit my own parents because they have a dog that must be gated off into another room and their home is very small (he's technically my brother's, but he has no place for a large boxer). Because they have all hardwoods versus carpet, our once or twice a year visit is doable. But it's very difficult to keep young children away from a fascinating dog in close quarters, especially when one of the three kids is allowed in to play with the dog while the other two only watch. I'm just glad my mom and dad keep coming to see us often or we'd have serious withdrawals around here.

(Please don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about my parents, just using them for a neutral example.)

I find over time that I have to remind myself that nuts and soy and dairy and pets - and everything else on our lengthy allergy list - are very normal things for most people!

Okay, pity party over.
You may return to your regularly scheduled blog routine.

04 February 2010

the big balance

This past week, as I filled out our "attendance" form to mail to the superintendent's office, I realized we had reached the halfway mark in our school year - exactly 90 days at the end of January. I find this remarkable, mostly because I have so much I want to do with Little B and it seems unattainable. It's tricky, though, as pressing too hard causes stress, distress and lack of willingness in him (and lots of random breaks keep things peaceful).

Little B learns easily and thoroughly, but he hates to be "forced" to do work – for example, a unit study on The Pirate Diary sounds so exciting to him, but by the third day he's read the book through several times and is resisting the next assignment or rereading a section he's forgotten, even if it's something that would normally excite him –because it's by "force" is what he tells me. And I'm beginning to think lap booking is just like "busy work" in his mind. (I'm starting to feel that way, too, at the moment.) We're giving it a shot, but I find that picking and choosing assignments from such unit studies based on our needs works best. Each day, I write his assignments and chores in a spiral notebook which he checks off as he goes. If he's not done by a certain time, no (play) computer time that day. And we just get back to what was incomplete the next day without a fuss – sometimes it's better not to draw attention to it.

I want to school year-round which is technically 3.5 days a week. We do mostly 4 day weeks so we can have a few days when John has time off. It's just a big balancing act. Also, I'm toying with rotating certain subjects throughout the year, perhaps 3 or 4 month cycles.

We've taken a slight Sonlight hiatus in which we did random social studies "lessons" since I was in need of a few books I had not ordered. They're on their way now, and we're both excited to pick it back up. Sometimes we do the suggested discussions, sometimes not – he has a tendency to read the books through in a day or two and can easily tell me what he's enjoying.

Language Arts is a breeze for him. His ability to write a story with limited errors, beautiful descriptions and accurate punctuation easily exceeds the 3rd grade level. Paragraph breaks are the most noticeable need. He has loved the silliness of Time 4 Learning's online L.A. program, though we had to move him to the 4th grade level in that this week...I should have done it long ago, and I'm not so certain we won't have to move it to 5th. He simply aces it all. I'm also considering a vocabulary book and a daily editing book; both look good and would provide variation (as long as I get at least 4th grade levels).

Next week, Little B will finish the current book from Math U See. We have been reinforcing addition and subtraction, which went a few steps further than his 2nd grade math for the purpose of mastery. Now I need to find the next level up. I am contemplating a "break" to work on skip counting and some flashcards before launching into multiplication…but I'm indecisive. Time 4 Learning has math as well, so I can use it as a supplement, but I'm not sure I want to mix up curriculum styles too much.

In science, I have amazing Lego Education set and a Little Professor's Dissection Kit that he is drooling to dig into. I just have not figured out how to work around the destruction of Baby J's toddlerhood. So, I ease my conscience with the science at Time 4 Learning, sans any print-outs or experiments. This has to change, and soon. Again, I find myself considering less of another big subject for a few months, in trade for more of this.

There is so much more I want to do with and for him. I cannot afford outside lessons or activities right now, and we're waiting until the move to join a homeschool group, so it's a bit lonely right now. In the meantime, we have a program for violin that we're slacking on, we could do online language lessons for free through our library, I think typing is becoming essential, Instant Challenges look awesome, and we've worked on manners and cooking and chores. (He's getting proficient at eggs, and he can prepare his own breakfast or lunch.) We have barely dabbled in cursive, so I'm digging into my options – Pencil Pete's Handwriting Programs look good to me, and I can use the print one for Miss C. They also have story starters that I think will keep Little B engaged.

Miss C is teaching herself to read and doing Kindergarten level work on that same Time 4 Learning program. She is so proud to do school like her big brother. I have so many things I want to do with her, but again, I find I lack the opportunities with her because of Baby J, though I realize this stage will flee soon enough.

So, I juggle. And I work to find a balance someplace in this grand act I'm performing.

**A little note about Time 4 Learning – it is an online curriculum that covers (for most grades K-8) Language Arts, Social Studies, Science and Math. I have had a customer service "issue" recently, and find their program (not curriculum) a bit outdated as well as not the most user- friendly. HOWEVER, it has been fun for the kids and they are very kid- and learning-friendly for what our needs have been. Would I recommend them? Probably. Would I shout it from the rooftop? Probably not. They are simply helping meet some needs as I find my way in this new world of Homeschooling…filling in the gaps, so to speak.


In my last (very lengthy) post I told you about the Willow Tree figure my mom gave me the day Miss C was born. And how it broke when she dropped it. And how I cried when I came upon it weeks later.

It had broken in half just beneath the mother's arms. The irony of this struck me so hard -- thus the massive crying fest that ensued.

I did eventually glue it back together, and only if you look closely can you see a crack and a tiny missing chip in back. Again with the irony. I confess I hold this particular item very dear to my heart.

It is interesting that only in our brokeness before our Lord can we be made whole in Him.

03 February 2010

miss c

Miss C.

Of my three kids, her birth, her story, her experience, her time with me – they are the strongest and most distinct. She is astoundingly unique in personality, a pixie of a girl who loves all things Littlest Pet Shop, works to be just as big as her older brother and yet tries her hardest to play with the little one as well. Still waters truly run deep with her as she will ponder and turn over many a thing in her mind that you had no idea she gave a second thought to; her contemplative remarks astonish us every time. She is artistic and has a soft, sweet voice (unless she's mad).

I speak of her birth, for reasons some of you already know or will recall now that I mention it. For those of you who do not know, you can read the story of her birth here.

The trauma of that day was only the beginning of a journey. I blogged for many months of the therapies we took her to, the progress, and finally the dismissal. Indeed, it was during this time that my humble little blog finally sprung to life. I am going to summarize a bit of that time for anyone who does not know the extent of her story:

I have a difficult time giving birth (yes, me, lover of all-natural, drug-free births) – all three of my babies got stuck in the same manner, shoulder dystocia. The difference with Miss C was that she was unusually large and therefore "extra stuck", resulting in nerve damage. At birth, she could not move her arm and her hand only flexed a little, though that was a sign of encouragement to the doctors. During the six months of physical therapy that followed we exercised her arm every single day, we took her to a surgeon for evaluations and follow ups, we read up on brachial plexus injuries and learned that the extent of damage could vary widely. In many cases, the nerve is torn completely and micro surgery can possibly help….for some children, one arm may never function properly, may always be shorter than the other, and may require multiple surgeries. For others, the function will return within days or weeks since the damage was more of a stretching or bruising of the nerve.

I recall specifically having an appointment with the surgeon to discuss her progress when she was about 3 months old. They did not look encouraged as her progress was slow and should have taken a clear turn, even recovered completely, if the injury was mild enough. Without further marked improvement, they were going to consider surgery. We sent emails to our friends detailing her needs, asking for prayer. That very week, the tide began to turn for her and a specific muscle began to flex, then another and another. At six months old, she was discharged with the directive to have a yearly evaluation done until she turned five. There are not words for the relief we felt.

As you see, this year marks something very large for her, and for me. In truth it makes my heart race and a bit of panic to set in. Her four year old evaluation showed a need for some work on her hand that we were to do at home. And we did do it. Just not as diligently as I imagined. She was willing. But I had Baby J always underfoot and on the go along with Little B going through some very hard times. So I simply did not get much done for her this time. I remember her as a new baby, so faithfully stretching and working on her little arm. This time was very different. We had her ring out wet washcloths in the tub, used large "tweezer-weezers" to pick up and move cotton balls, squeeze things with the forefinger and thumb. In normal, practical ways, we encourage her to use and stretch the weaker hand. But it does not feel like I did it often enough.

The lasting results of this injury are not ones you would see if you met her, but ones I see when I have her stretch out her hand and place both palms up and one does not lay flat, or if I ask her to raise both arms straight up in the air and one elbow does not go completely straight; it's her shoulder blade sticking out just a bit more than the other. Little things. So, as the time to schedule her evaluation approaches, I tremble a bit. I worry I have failed her here at the very end. I find myself intensely emotional.

I have a small collection of Willow Tree figures. The day Miss C was born, my mother gave me one I had wanted, of a mother holding her new baby, Angel of Mine. As she pulled out the bag that held it, the bag dropped. My figure dropped and broke. At that moment in time, everything was too much for me to think on it and I had her just set it aside, assuring her it was not a big deal. Once home, that bag was set in another room and temporarily forgotten. Weeks later, I dug it up and only then did I even remember the incident. And I bawled. And bawled some more.

But most of all, I remember that on that day five years ago, I was abundantly clear that my God has a plan for my little girl. Without a doubt, He wanted her here on earth for His purpose. And throughout that traumatic day, I had deep, abiding peace.

I see this plan slowly taking shape as she grows. Just a week ago, she was asking me seriously about Jesus being in our hearts. I spoke some of how He can be there and what He did for us, then suggested she talk to Him about it, think about what it means. She told me it was important to consider. He is moving in her heart.

Happy birthday to my special girl.

01 February 2010

tea party and other fun trivia

In two days my sweet Miss C turns five...did you hear that!? FIVE! I'm not sure how this came to be, but she assures me that under no circumstance can I convince her to go back to four. Sigh.

Truly, I love watching her change and grow and learn and live and delight. I am pleased to see her arriving at five years old. Hopefully, in two day's time I will manage to find the right words to share what is on my heart about her. And if not, it will simply get done late.

For her party this year, we went all-out girly and had a "Fancy Nancy" Tea Party (inspired, not themed). Here she is at the end of a long day, hair skewered, posing with her presents (we took about 8 or 9 pictures, this being one of the last...they were funny to watch! And of course, the best one is on my camera phone, not available for posting.)

I ran into a bit of a stress-act that day since John had worked past midnight the previous two nights which limited the help he could offer, Little B had a party to go do that morning, I had not finished buying food for the party, the icing wasn't made, the floor still needed mopping, the streamers were not done, and I had visions of perfection.

Perfection did not happen. It did get done, however, once reinforcements arrived...and fun reigned. I found getting ready with friends helping to be WAY more fun and so much easier. I think next time I'll ask a friend to come help beforehand and their kid can keep my kid busy. It's handy that my friends' kids are my kids' friends.

I also believe in simple parties - Miss C had two guests and two grandmas (we kicked out all the dads, brothers and grandpas). Less clean up, fewer gifts, more personal time. I love it. And with all the grandness she deserved!

There was an ice cream pinata filled with stickers, bubbles, rings, bracelets, etc. (I loathe the $10 bags of candy that isn't yummy and mostly gets tossed out anyway); there was an old-fashioned pin-the-tail-on-the-donkey; there was make-up and nail polish; and of course there was a fancy tea party (complete with Country Time Pink Lemonade instead of tea).

Here, I present you with my fabulous idea for all the old formals that needed purging from my attic: chair covers.

And for a bit of trivia:
That highly out-dated blue dress a the end of the table, the one that Miss C is sitting on above...that was my Senior Prom dress...and my prom date was none other than the man I married! I SO did not see that coming on that long ago (rainy, awkward) evening. The dress was a bridesmaid dress reworked by a friend's talented mom. And while it was not so snazzy, I had visions of Cinderella, I really did (yes, at 18 years old...hush). Poofy sleeves, shimmery blue...sigh. (My daughter had the same vision when she saw it for the first time - and I didn't have to make the suggestion!) Fast forward a few years and my then-prom-date, now serious relationship/fiance (don't remember if this was before or after our engagement) boldly tells me he didn't like that blue dress from prom and I'd have looked better in black (that was SO not the point, though...and Cinderella didn't wear black, right?). When we were planning our wedding, I made him preview my wedding dress because I told him there was no way he'd tell me a decade later that he didn't really like it. (He claimed to like it then, and so far he has not disputed that....my very own Prince Charming.)