29 December 2013


Brynning attempts to slide his plate under his toast (still on the toaster rack) so as not to have to put down his book.  Discovering this is not possible, he moves to the next obvious solution:  Find someplace to set the plate.  (Never the book!)

13 October 2013

Compare and contrast

And with that title, you know I'm going to talk about my two oldest boys, because really, how could two people with the same two parents possibly be as completely opposite as these two are?  I remain stunned and amazed.

David was doing some carving earlier, and decided to try a technique for roughing out the bowl with a chainsaw that several other carvers have recommended.  Benjamin shared his thoughts on the best way to do this and, when David looked skeptical, struck a casual pose, donned a professional expression, and said "Here, Daddy, give me the chainsaw and I'll show you how to do it."  (This is the five-year-old.)

Half an hour later we were sitting at dinner when Brynning suddenly looked up from his nachos and said "Non-existence is so hard to think about."  And quietly went back to eating.

The whiplash is killing me.

16 September 2013

Funny, funny

My children have been rather hilarious lately.  I've been especially impressed by the very dry, sarcastic sense of humor being displayed by Brynning recently - wow.  So I thought I'd share some things that made me laugh in the last few weeks.

First up, Iain, who made his first joke two weeks ago.  And this isn't so much funny as just a chance to brag, so skip to the next paragraph if you don't like cute stories about other people's children.  The older three monkeys are taking an art class one morning a week, and I sit in the studio with Iain and keep him out of stuff in the meanwhile.  He discovered a shelf full of gallon jugs of acrylic paint, and I figured it wouldn't hurt anything if he pulled them off and put them away a few times.  I seized the opportunity to begin teaching him his colors.  First he pulled the blue jug off and I dutifully announced "Blue!"  Next was yellow, which I also labelled for him.  After a few times I asked him "Which one is blue?" and he picked up the yellow jug, announced "LOO!", and laughed.  I replied "No, silly, that's Yellow!", whereupon he picked up the blue jug and proclaimed "LE-LO" before laughing delightedly.

So, Brynning.  Yesterday I finished up a long day by doctoring a puncture wound in Audrey's foot before sitting down and hauling through a scientific paper that I promised to edit for a friend.  Sometime around suppertime I announced that I was pretty certain I deserved a super-hero cape and leotard, and was sternly informed "Yes, you can wear that...into the bathroom, and then lock the door until you change into something else."  I thought I had another year or two before he was old enough to be embarrassed by his own mother.

And speaking of my sons, Benjamin and Brynning had the most fascinating conversation with me in the car two days ago, that was just such a perfect illustration of the difference between my two oldest boys.  We were driving down the main road when a guy pulled up next to us on a fancy motorcycle.  Brynning announced "That's what I want!"  "Those kinds of motorcycles are called Crotch Rockets" I informed him (not without wondering if I would regret having dispensed that particular piece of information).  "Oh," he replied, "never mind.  I thought it was a scooter."  Simultaneously, Benjamin cried with delight "YES!  That's what I want!  A CROCK POT!"

When I stopped laughing enough to re-enunciate the title (No, dear, it's a crotch rocket.) he tried again.  "Oh, that's what I meant.  A Crock Pocket." Regardless, he is all about fast, and dangerous.  Oh, mercy!

16 August 2013

Feast of the Assumption

I am planning to spend today mostly knitting, because it is a sitting down-type activity, and frankly, I wore myself out yesterday.  Let's recap:

On Monday, Catholic Cuisine put up a recipe for Heavenly Assumption Parfaits, just in time to plan for the Feast of the Assumption (which was yesterday, August 15th).

We are not Catholic, but this struck me as such a fabulously creative dessert (and also seemed so simple and do-able!) that I decided we were going to have an Assumption celebration anyway just so I could make it.  So on Tuesday I invited some Catholic friends of ours to join us for a Feast-day celebration.

On Wednesday, I looked around my house and thought "Merciful Heaven, what on earth was I thinking!?"  My pantry contents had been disgorged into Audrey's room and the kitchen two weeks ago so that we could paint the pantry.  The recycling bins and cat's litter box were creating a traffic obstacle in the kitchen while the little kitchen cart from my grandmother took up a large portion of the floor space (nominally made up for by the fact that it provides additional workspace, but it's still hard to negotiate around it).  Beyond the disaster from the pantry, I also have an overflow of tomatoes from my garden, and my chiropractor called to let me know she'd be in town, and did I want to get adjusted?  So Thursday began to look a little crazy.

Thursday I spent painting shelves, shopping for and prepping food, visiting with my chiropractor (a welcome break in the midst of the insanity I had visited on myself), and making jell-o.  I decided to make my dessert in a trifle dish rather than individual cups, and to use real whipped cream because I like it better.  But it turns out that my trifle dish needs much more than two boxes of jell-o to be full.  So my Heavenly Assumption dessert ended up blue on the bottom and green on the top, since I had to finish off with the other jell-o on hand.  Brynning said it looked like the sky just before a tornado, and we decided it was within the realm of possibility (using one's imagination just a bit) that Mary was carried off to heaven on a tornado, like Dorothy heading for the Land of Oz.  So I got the fire built for grilling, all the food made, and we had a lovely time with our friends that was only interrupted briefly when Brynning was head-butted during a pick-up football game, and put his tooth through his lip.  (Iain having done the same thing the day before at the park, my book-end boys now have matching fat lips - adorable, of course.)

If you think it's weird that a Protestant family would choose to celebrate this particular Feast Day, well, you're right.  Normal isn't something we really do much of around here though, and I'm good with that.  But the main point I wanted to make (yes, I have a point) is this:  This morning as I was recuperating by sitting on the sofa, reading blogs, I came across this post on the biblical roots of the Feast of the Assumption, on the blog of the Archdiocese of Washington.  And it turns out that the Church celebrates the Assumption of Mary not only to honor her, and through her, Christ, but also to celebrate the fact that we can also look forward to a day when our souls and bodies will be reunited in Heaven.  Her Assumption is celebrated in anticipation of our own.  What a glorious anticipation we have in Christ!  What a wonderful thing to celebrate! (Maybe even with green jell-o.)

05 May 2013

Thanks, but no thanks

Audrey asked for some help with spelling words after supper.  She was making signs for her bedroom door:
I love the heart.  It adds such a friendly touch to "dAngEr to Enemies", doesn't it?

Necessary signage completed, Benjamin (who apparently is either an honorary sister or simply a peon) then proceeded to stockpile weapons in her room.

Later while waiting for a clear spot at the bathroom sink for tooth brushing, Brynning asked me "Mama, how should I beat Audrey?"  Apparently, they're at war.  I offered my advice, gleaned from years of sibling interactions (and perhaps a few parenting books as well).  Doing my best to look wise I told him "I'm going to give you my very best advice, and it will sound boring and silly to you, but I promise if you try it, it will work.  The Bible says that we should love our enemies, and do good to those that persecute us.  So I think you should try really hard to find lots of ways to love Audrey and be nice to her."  Offering some inducement to actually follow this advice (because after all, I do know he's a medium-sized boy who really just wants to beat his sister at whatever this game is) I added "The Bible says that when we do nice things like that to our enemies, it's like heaping burning coal on their heads."  Smiling hopefully, I finished with "Doesn't that sound like fun?"

He shook his head at me for a moment.  "Good grief," he replied.  "I'm never making you a general in my army!"

01 May 2013

See, I'm not crazy

I am trying not to spend so much time reading news stories that raise my blood pressure - partly because I've decided it can't possibly be healthy, partly because I have better things to do with my life.  I have four young children at home, I homeschool, I cook, I clean, and I try to do it all with some degree of grace.  Some days are more successful than others, but that's the goal.

However, I believe it is also true that, in this country at least, citizens have a responsibility to be informed.  We have a government that answers to us (at least in theory), and that means that we are responsible to know what is going on, and to participate in the political process.  This seems like an obvious concept to me, and I'm bothered far more by apathy than by disagreement with my personal ideas and ideals. But it is also true that I hold the ideals, and adhere to the ideas that I do, because they seem obvious and logical to me.  When I wrote my guest post for Free-Range Kids, I thought that the concerns I was expressing over the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities were obvious and clear-cut.  When people labelled me a tin-foil hat-wearing, anti-UN not-smart person (Brynning is reading as I type this), I assumed that the fault was mine for not communicating clearly.

This treaty, if signed, becomes the supreme law of the land.  Those who say it won't affect US law are just plain wrong - either they are misinformed, or they are lying.  Our Constitution explicitly states that treaties supersede not only the laws of individual states, but also the Constitution itself.

This treaty, if signed, is not binding on anyone but us.  Our signing has no affect whatsoever on any other country.  We are obliged to follow it if we sign it.  They are not.  Those who say differently, again, are misinformed or lying.

This treaty explicitly states that the government, not parents, has the right to determine what constitutes the "best interests" of disabled children, and to act on that decision.

This treaty does not define the term "disabled".

If people cannot see the problem with this, I'm not sure what else to say.  I don't know how to connect the dots to make it any more obvious that this treaty is a bad idea.  Our laws regarding disabled people are the standard that other countries strive to match.  This treaty was based on the Americans With Disabilities Act.  We don't need this treaty for disabled Americans.  And it directly threatens - in fact, eliminates - the rights of American parents to direct the upbringing of their children.

When the government begins to act as though it has the right to determine what is best for children, rather than their parents, scenarios like this one (recently reported on Fox News) are what happen. That should scare us like crazy.

In this story you have two responsible, loving parents, striving to do what is best for their son.  Their son was born with a heart murmur, and at one doctor's visit the doctor (in a confrontational, disrespectful-toward-the-parents manner - inexcusable) informed the parents that their 5-month-old needed immediate heart surgery.  They decided to seek a second opinion.  They took their son, left, and immediately went to a second hospital to consult with a different doctor.  That doctor confirmed that their son needed the surgery, but said it was fine to take him home that day.  The next day the police and CPS showed up, broke into this couple's house, and took their son into custody.  The claim was that he was in immanent danger, that his parents were neglectful and abusive.  This was based on the fact that they had...what?  Nothing.  They had done nothing that any reasonable parent wouldn't have done.  They asked a second doctor to confirm what the first, rude one had said, before subjecting their infant son to major surgery.  And they had to go to court, and the court has upheld the behaviour of CPS and the police, and returned custody to the parents only on a conditional basis. The parents are now required to comply with all "reasonable" medical advice.  Who determines what is reasonable?  Apparently not the parents.

That makes me physically ill.  If these parents can lose control of medical decisions for their son over nothing more than seeking a second opinion (immediately, let's remember - it's not as though they waited several months), then no parent is safe.  And this is what the UN CRPD seeks to make the law of our land - government, not parents, has the right and authority to determine what is best for children.  If you disagree with that idea, you should care about this treaty.  You should call your representatives, and tell them so, and ask them to vote against it.  You should not sit back, and let other people worry about it, and think that this isn't your problem.

If you don't think this treaty is a problem, if you're one of those who feels it is reprehensible that we haven't passed it already, fine.  Leave me a comment, and help me see your point of view - but do it politely.  The other thing I can't stand (besides apathy) is rudeness, and I will not interact with anyone who can't maintain at least an appearance of respect for those with whom he (or she) disagrees.

20 March 2013

Spring Prunings

I cut all the boys' hair last week except Iain's.  Spring is on the way and, wow, they were really getting shaggy.  I have no idea when the last hair cut happened, but it has been Too Long.  Part of the reason I wait so long in between is that hair is just such a pain to clean up!  It gets everywhere (static!), sticks to everything, and you're still dealing with little bits of it for days.  We hates it.  But the boys came out looking well-pruned, and Brynning is quite pleased with the resurrection of his mohawk.  Benjamin opted for a buzz.  I was disciplined, though, and didn't take pictures this time because apparently I have felt a need in the past to document EVERY SINGLE HAIRCUT!  Apparently waiting so long between cuts means the end result is so shocking, I just feel a need for documentation.

Speaking of shocking changes, look at my picture in the side bar over there ----->  Notice the very long hair?  I love my hair long.  I think it looks classic, and feminine, and it's super super easy.  Additionally, it's inexpensive to take care of because I don't need to see a stylist.  When the split ends get bad, I just have David cut a few inches off the ends.  At one point he cut six inches off, and no one even noticed.  Yeah, I keep it pretty long.

Recently, however, I've been wanting to do something different.  I started with something relatively minor.  I went to an actual salon, and had an actual stylist cut it to shoulder length and layer it.  It was cute, and objectively speaking I could look in the mirror and see that, but I really didn't like it.  There's nothing easier than long, straight hair, it turns out, and having to actually style my hair when I wanted it to look nice was really a pain.  But I hadn't gotten over my "wanting something different" feeling.  So yesterday, I went to another salon, and (wait for it)...

 did this:

 No, it's not bangs.

 It's just really really short.  (Hi Mom!)

The last thing David said as I left was "Don't do anything too drastic."....

Well, I could have gone shorter.

Brynning pretended to pass out in a full faint when I walked in, and Audrey (when asked if she would like a similar cut) proceeded to very emphatically inform me that "Girls are supposed to have LONG hair!  And boys can have long hair or short hair, but really they're supposed to have SHORT hair!"  (Benjamin's reply:  "Well Qui Gon Jin has long hair, so there!"  Said with a pronounced upward tilt to his nose.)  When I asked who told her that she said "No one, I just figured it out for myself!"

So I'm getting mixed reviews, but I, personally, am pleased with how it turned out.  I've always wondered what I'd look like with really short hair.  Now I know.

Funny story:  The morning after cutting all the boys' hair, I opened the trash can and nearly shrieked out loud before realizing that the Very Large furry animal that had invaded my trash was actually the hair from the previous day's prunings.  Gave me quite a turn.

01 February 2013

Oh, of course

Last week Brynning told me that he thinks I really should have 8 children, altogether.  After I caught my wind and stopped coughing, I asked for the reason behind his conclusion.  Obviously he wasn't thinking in terms of baseball, because a baseball team requires 9 players.  (Am I right?  Someone be proud of me if I am; otherwise, well, I never have been much of a baseball fan.)  Was he thinking football?  Basketball?  Soccer?  Maybe he was thinking of his cousins, and wanted to take up Lacrosse?  What sort of team was he trying to form with his siblings, that required a total of 8 players?

(Note my complete lack of knowledge regarding the actual numbers of players on any type of sport team.  My favourite sports are all solo endeavors, which says something about me, but there you go.)

No, no.  My oldest son proceeded to inform me that a Tortoise Formation, as used by the Roman infantry, requires at least 8 soldiers.  He felt it would be useful to have the requisite number of siblings, for the next time we decide to attack the barbarian hordes and conquer a piece of Europe

I need him to not see this picture.

23 January 2013

On a winter afternoon

Today I made my eight-year-old son laugh.  I made a joke up (this never happens), and he really thought it was funny!  Curious to know what a mother can say to make a not-so-small boy chuckle?

What does a Jawa say at the health food store?  Tahini!

(If you're wondering what on earth made me think of this, I was making hummus for lunch, while discussing Star Wars with Brynning.)  This being humorous to him reveals a fascination with Star Wars that I am finding is insatiable.  What is it with those movies?  (All true fans relax - I already told them Episodes 1-3 aren't really worth bothering about.)

My sink is overflowing.  David shook his head in amazement this past weekend when, 20 minutes after starting the third full dishwasher load, the counter and sink were covered with dirty dishes again.  The laundry is overflowing, too.  The house is overflowing.  The corners are dusty.  The diningroom floor is covered with food (none of it older than yesterday, but still).  And my little people are quiet and happy, listening to Narnia radio theatre.  In a few more months, I'll be able to take opportunities like this to knit.  Next winter.  I can't wait.  :-)

Meanwhile, I'm pondering prayer crickets.  I love this idea, of choosing a verse for each family member to pray for them in the coming year.  And with that, I really should get to the cleaning.  (But I had to pause to share my joke!)