Monday, February 28, 2011

Play Time

I recently got an email from a friend who declared that she is not a fun mom and requested some ideas.  Her children are about three and one.  It brought me back a few years to when I had that same little family.

Just after our second baby was born, I remember watching my two year old son playing alone in the backyard.  He didn't know any differently, but he looked lonely to me.

"Hurry up and grow," I told my new baby.  "Your brother needs a playmate!"

Even though I did play with him often, no mother can play as much as a two year old would want her to!

My children often say that if their dad stayed home instead of me, the school work would be done promptly and correctly and the house would be perfectly clean . . . but no one would have any fun.  (Not that I can't be clean and Justin can't be fun, but we excel in different areas.)

It is harder to play when only one child is really old enough to actually play.  When the boy was young, I got him toys with which I would want to play.  Some toys included blocks, play-doh, light sabers (his favorite toy for about seven years), crayons, a swing set and cars--mostly for use with the blocks.  I tried to actively play with him every day, and by actively, I mean me getting up and running around.  We built forts, had picnics (even if they were in the living room or our own backyard), and had races (run backwards, crawl, hop on one foot, etc.).  When you go to the park, do not just sit and watch from the bench, climb and chase and go down the slides with them.  Go to a natural area and have "adventures" in the rocks.  Pretend you are orphans or pioneers or stranded sailors.  I think the key is to do whatever they are doing, not just watch to make sure 
they are safe.

The baby always loved doing whatever she could with us, my son and I were playing together and it helped keep me fit.  As the children have multiplied and aged, they do not need me to play with them as much.  Sometimes I forget to get down in the sand with them, but we all have more fun when I do.

What fun things do you do with your children?

Friday, February 25, 2011

A Box

Oh, my!  What an overwhelmingly wonderful response to our announcement!  Thank you for your encouragement and excitement for us.  It made my day.

Being pregnant at 34 is a whole lot different than being pregnant at 21.  Some of the aspects are so. much. better!  For instance, if I am too sick to make lunch, there are four children in the house that can make varying levels of said meal.  (Of course, even our smallest can break into a box of crackers, if necessary.)  If someone is crying, one of her siblings can (and does) comfort her. My children have always been careful of me when I'm sick, but now they can actually nurse me with some degree of competence.  I have had several foot rubs and hair brushings, they pick shows they know I would like to watch, and refreshments are fetched accurately and without delay.  They have even told me, "Mom, you need to go take a nap.  We'll take care of things up here."  My goodness.  Who wouldn't want another child when you have so far produced a crop like this?

With all of the good, there is bound to be some bad.  For instance, I am sick, my baby bump is far too pronounced (remember with the first baby how it took MONTHS to show?), and I'm already feeling creaky.  Is it the passage of the twelve years or is it the consequence of bearing and birthing five children already?  Or both?

My dear mother sent me a First Trimester Care Package.  There was a rather large warning on the box that everything in the box was for the MotherShip and though she could share, it was not required.  Obviously, I shared--it is part of being the mom.  It was packed with Ginger Snaps, Peppermint Tea, soda crackers and other time honored morning sickness remedies.  There were a few items of maternity clothes--you know how worn out maternity clothes get.  There was tapioca pudding which is what my mom always made for me as a child when I was home sick from school.  Definite comfort food.  She also packed in some traditional kids card games to keep them busy.

Old Maid, Go Fish and Crazy 8's went well.  Even the youngest could play and it kept them busy for quite some time.  It was a lovely alternative entertainment for the morning.  Then they began the age-old game of Memory.

As a home schooling mother, I am always concerned with filling potential holes in my students' education.  Yesterday, I realized that one of my children was completely devoid of the skills necessary to find the matches.  This child was smoked by all of the others.  It became the home work for the morning.  This child will play Memory a few more times today.  If I have a child that leaves my home without the ability to play a competitive version of Memory, then I have failed indeed.

Even if they can make a meal on their own, change a diaper and find square roots.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

My Sister Told Me to Write

I haven't been very regular with my blogging lately.  You probably haven't noticed, but my sister has.  It is important to do what your sister tells you to do and she told me to write.

My sister at her daughter's wedding.  They let me step in on a photo.

I'll tell you what I have been thinking about.  It is controversial.

We are having a baby.

At first glance, you might think, "How could that beautiful statement be controversial?"

She (we've decided that it is a girl so that expectations for that evasive boy type don't cause sadness when she comes out a she) will be our sixth child.

A few of you will not even think that is controversial, but many of you will--even if you wouldn't say it out loud.  It is only good news for our family.  I have been wanting another baby for a long time and didn't even take a test until I was eight weeks along for fear it would be negative.  The children and husband are all excited and supportive so you need not worry that criticism is coming from within the walls of my home.  But it is there.  And some people are loud about it.

These are the reasons, all of which I have either heard or been personally told, and I will try not to share them with too much sarcasm.

  1. Having a large family is selfish.
  2. There is no way each child can be individually nurtured.
  3. It is not healthy for a woman to spend her entire adult life raising children.
  4. Someone will be left out.
  5. It is gluttonous to have so many children when others can't have any.
  6. Someone will go crazy (most likely the mother) and we will have to pay for her asylum care.
  7. It is financially irresponsible.
  8. In large families, the children are always unkempt.
  9. It is a drain on community and world resources.
  10. The older children didn't choose to have that many siblings, yet they must take care of them.
  11. How could you bring children into this horrible world?
I am gearing up for the rude stranger comments:  
  • Are all these YOURS???  
  • You must be crazy!  
  • Don't you know how to stop having children?  
  • You don't have to populate the world on your own, you know.  
  • Here is a card for Planned Parenthood.  I'm sure they could help you.
  • Mormon or Catholic?  (I actually don't mind this one.)
  • I hope you are paying for the care of all of these.
and so on.  

I have a friend who had nine children.  Once, when she was asked why she was having another child, she responded, coolly, "The angel told me to."  

While I could sit and write a detailed response to all of the above comments, it isn't worth the time.  If you are from a large family or have one yourself, you already know the answers.  (My father-in-law, father to nine, once said to me, "Children are the only true joy you get in life."  Good enough for me!)  I do have a response prepared, though.

Someone has to pay for that stimulus bill.

Friday, February 18, 2011

The Little Men Inside My Computer

I hate computers.  I mean, I love computers, but I also really hate them.

There is one certain process that will always make me want to scream.  I have had to do it several times and each time it has taken HOURS to accomplish--if it ever is.  Tonight, here I am, doing it again.  It is saving . . . again . . . and it takes a long time to save for some infuriating reason.

I have watched all videos sent by loving e-mailers.  I have caught up on reading everyone's blog.  I have even watched highlights from Ellen and other TV must sees (that I never see).  The file is only 17% saved.

Forget it.  It froze . . . again.

You see, the problem with computers is that we have come to rely on them and they know that!  It's like when Pa and Ma Ingalls had learned to rely on the railroad for coal and food so when the train got stuck in an avalanche in October and couldn't be dug out until April, they all nearly died.  They twisted and burned hay and ground wheat kernels in a coffee grinder all day to obtain enough flour to have bread.  There was nothing they could do but wait.  Here I am, on the brink of a brain hemorrhage and there is nothing I can do but wait.

The whole time computers would have us believe that they can't be reasoned with or cajoled, convinced, tricked or coerced into performing the commands you desire, they are laughing their britches off inside that little box.  I know because I can hear them.  They are loving this!

You can try beating it out of them--that works because you usually have to get a new, updated, unbuggy (totally a word) computer, but it is an expensive option.

It is now 89% saved.  It sound close, but I don't believe it.  As soon as I try the saved version on another device, it won't work.  I know it.  It tells me to insert a blank disk.  Why do they need a blank disc?  This one only has about 1% of its memory used.  New disk is the wrong kind of disk, but it is the same kind of disk I have used for this application many times before.  From the same package, even.

Can you hear me screaming now?

Well, I'm not because all of the family is asleep.  I should be asleep.  But I am not.  I am trying to persuade those damn little men inside the black box at my feet to help me out.

I'm sorry.  Does it count as a swear if you write it?

Something is happening.  Something promising.  I think that did it!  They love me, those little guys.  Must have been the tiny new clothes I made and left out for them by secret.  Justin even made them each a tiny pair of shoes.

The little rascals.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

No More Fighting!

It was a Tuesday.  It should have been a regular school day with art class, chores and regular leisure activities to fill in the cracks.  Instead, it was a fighting day.

From the moment the children opened their eyes, there was bickering, pestering, nitpicking, bugging, bothering, teasing and annoying.  (I did not need to use the thesaurus to create that list.)  After a few frustrated attempts on my part to quell the storm, I demanded that "WE ARE LEAVING!"

Everyone got dressed including hats, coats and gloves.  They stuffed backpacks full of water bottles, walkie-talkies, a compass, army knives, paper and other essentials.  We cleaned the house (just in case someone wanted to come use the key the realtor had to make available at anyone's whim) and left.  It was a windy day, but not incredibly cold.  It was the kind of day one is given as a gift in February, and one that can't be ignored.

We went to a local park that has lots of basalt pilings for climbing, trails amongst the trees for walking and plenty of hiding places for adventures.  The wind only added to the excitement of the day--it made our land of make-believe more wild and unforgiving.  There was still a bit of snow on the ground, but it was melting fast making mud and little rivulets run between the rocks.  We had packed a lunch of cold chicken and bread and it felt so much more authentic to our play than a peanut butter sandwich and fruit snacks.

For three hours, we (well, it was mostly the children) ran, played, jumped, crawled and otherwise moved in the fresh air.  No one even got close to fighting because they were too busy thinking up ways to procure food or shelter.  When one fell in the mud, the others were quick to help so no one had to abandon the outside and go home.

When we finally did have to go home, the kids were tired and a little more settled.  The youngest took a nap, the five-year old watched a movie contentedly, another had art class, and the oldest two went on a long bike ride.

By bedtime, everyone had pink cheeks and worn-out bodies.  Everyone went to bed without a squawk and slept soundly.  It was a lovely day to be remembered and it had started out so badly.

It is amazing what a little outside can do to save the whole family from the dreaded effects of cabin fever.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Cleaning Report

I have been unloading the dishwasher while the dishes are still hot enough to burn my fingers.  I have been folding laundry straight from the dryer.  I have been putting dinner left-overs in tupperware before it is cool.  I have been washing the windows (at least the lower half) every morning.  I have been vacuuming every day.  I have been making my children's beds with annoying precision.  I have banned play and laughter and fun.  My house has never been this clean for this long.

At first I was kind of bored with being clean.  After everything was clean, I didn't want anyone to touch anything so we would sit and stare at each other.  That didn't last long.  We re-introduced school because it was the right thing to do.  But, by school, I mean NO science projects, NO cutting, pasting or markers, and NO complex physics experiments.  We are filling out papers, workbooks and giving oral presentations.  Uninspiring to be sure.  Lucky for us, reading, writing and math are all tidy activities.

I am in the second week of keeping the house clean selling the house.  Now I am frustrated with all that I can't get done.  I can't do projects because there is the potential that someone will want to see the house.  It's a weird thing.  We live here, but we can't really live here, ya' know?  I feel behind with other things in my life because I'm just cleaning all day long.  (And, have you noticed that the more you clean, the more dirt you see to be cleaned?  UG!)

I know some women who are frustrated with being a stay-at-home mom.  I have always loved it and could never truly understand those women.  Now I do.  If I thought staying at home meant cleaning all day, I would have gone back to work years ago.

I'm not complaining, mind you.  I'm glad that so many people are coming to see the house.  The more viewers, the better chance that one will be a buyer, but it is a lackluster existence.

Maybe we'll take up family running.  That's clean.  And out of the house.

Oh, here's the new Laundry Chute I made.

I used to have a basket with the bottom cut out of it, but visitors always thought it was a garbage can.  I was always finding garbage (bad bathroom garbage) in my laundry.  Eww, right?  I think it's a little more clear now.

Fully functional.

Sunday, February 6, 2011


My favorite game as a child was "Orphan."  I think I told you about this once.  I'm afraid we have not done a good job explaining what it really means to be an orphan.

Tonight, we were all getting in to the car.  Everyone was stepping on someone's toes, jabbing elbows into ribs, whining, calling names, crying and creating a terrible hullabaloo.  Justin and I were just looking at each other with that, they are driving me crazy look and trying to decide whether to laugh or cry.

My husband finally informed them that we were going to drop them off at the orphanage.  Immediately, the back seat rang out with,

"HOORAY!!!  YEAH!!!  Oh, really, Daddy?  Really?  Do we get to go to an orphanage? I'm so EXCITED!!"

So, the crying was out.  Everyone stopped fighting and we laughed the whole way home.

Boy, oh, boy am I glad the whole crazy, musical-loving, romantic, and absurd passel is mine.

Thursday, February 3, 2011


My son recently purchased an original Tetris game cartridge from ebay.

He had been playing an inferior free version online and had been frustrated with it.  When he found it on ebay for less than a Happy Meal, he ordered it right away.

The cartridge came yesterday.  He was so excited and plugged it into his gameboy right away.  The credits lit up the screen and he burst into that barky kind of laughter.  

"OHH, MY GOSH!!  This thing was made in 1989!  No, way!  Did they even have computers back then?"

Good grief.  When did 1989 get to be so long ago?  I distinctly remember the arrival of the Gameboy and the now-ancient Tetris.  I can still sing the song, for crying out loud.

After the initial hilarity of the chance that something SO OLD could still be held in his hands, he started playing the game.

And hasn't put it down since.

Take that, young pups!

Errr, some other way clever come-back.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

My Parent's Were in a Band

Every once in a while I think of some random thing that many people who know me now would not know about me.  (Was that a sufficiently confusing sentence?)  Just now, a song came on my Pandora station that reminded me of one such random bit of information.

My parent's were in a band.  During much of the seventies and eighties, my parents played in a dance band.  They were called Sunrise and were a pretty hot ticket; they had gigs every weekend.

My dad's mother played in a band when he was young.  She sang and played the wash board.  They lived in the country in the forties and fifties and apparently she was quite a draw.  She passed away when Dad was quite young, so I never knew her, but every who did know her said she was fantastic.  My dad's family say she was a natural on stage.

My mom's dad had a famous voice.  He was six and a half feet tall and barrel chested.  His voice matched his huge physical presence.  I did know him and, though he passed away fourteen years ago, I can distinctly remember the feeling of how my body vibrated when he boomed out his incredible bass voice.  You know the tiger from The Jungle Book?  Like that.

Both of them grew up with music.  It was super important to them.  So important, in fact, that when my newlywed parent's house caught fire, Dad ran back in to save his guitar.

Dad sang and played lead guitar.  A red Gibson.  One like this.  It is a beautiful instrument.  And dramatic, like my dad.

He was the driving force behind the band.  It was his great passion.  His other great passion is my mom so he figured out a way to make sure he was on stage with him every night.  She already had a beautiful voice and has a gifted ear for harmony, but Dad also taught her to play electric bass.  Their drummer was a really nice man named Scott Johns.  He was this bad a** drummer at night and was a master gardener at a famous rose garden during the day.  He had an earring.

Friday or Saturday night (and sometimes both) would roll around and off they would go.  If they played at a grange hall or other family-friendly place, they brought us with them.  That is where my love of dance came.  (I never took a dance class and am really no good, but I love to dance!)  My brothers and sister and I would dance over that cornmeal dusted dance floor for literally hours without tiring.  (I had my share of crushes on MUCH older, sweet cowboys who would ask seven year old me to dance.)  After the music ended, we would crash on a mess of moving pads the band used to cover their instruments in the van while we waited for  the cords to be wound and the guitars to be cased.  We always slept the whole way home.

It was such a happy time for me.  I thought my parents were the coolest ever.  There is that romance that comes with being on stage.  I loved when people knew that I belonged with the band.

Years later, we started a family band.  I don't think we ever had Partridge Family kind of aspirations, but we had fun together.  Joe* became quite proficient at guitar and Mollie played keyboard.  We all sang.  After the honeymoon was over, practice sessions were not filled with love and joy, so that eventually fell apart.

It used to be that my dad simply could not sit down without a guitar in his hands.  It was a constant background, the soundtrack to our family life.  I remember Mom sitting in front of a tape player writing down words of the next song they would cover.  She sang all of the time.  I miss her voice.

Can you imagine these two sappy grandparents rockin' the stage?  Well, they did.  I was there.  Now you know.

*Joe got the bug and has played in a band of one sort or other since.  He switched over to bass and was more dedicated to that than anything.  He has become better at music than all of the rest of us.  That is one of the reasons I wish I lived closer to him.  I would love to be in a band with him again.