Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sick days

My older two boys came down with a flu-ey virus on Tuesday (not too surprising after our very social weekend). No tummy issues, thankfully, but chills, fevers and body aches were enough to keep them stuck to the sofa the last two days.

We read more "HP and the Prisoner of Azkaban," and some selections for Littlest, and watched "Narnia" and "The Never-Ending Story." Have I mentioned these boys like fantasy? Maybe someday they'll let me read "Farmer Boy" to them...

Middlest was content just to lay on the couch all afternoon looking at the butterflies who'd just hatched in our Butterfly house.

We have a new neighbor next door who happens to work at Insectlore. Lucky us!! She came by with a container of ladybug larvae and another of butterfly pupa a few days ago. We got caterpillars last spring and watched the whole process, which was very cool.

We've never hatched lady bugs before, and I'm not sure these are doing well. But four of the butterflies hatched yesterday. After a few hours of observing them explore the lavender, Eldest took them outside to set them free.

Littlest was feeling perfectly fine yesterday, which was a huge blessing. It could have been one of those days.

I've been obsessing a little about collecting preschool activity ideas for him, since he seems to be needing a new level of stimulation lately. He was disappointed when his brothers weren't interested in their daily game of Cow Wrangling on my bed, but after that he managed to entertain himself pretty well.

My almost-3-year-old is a puzzle fanatic like his oldest brother, so lately he's been pulling everything out of the puzzle cupboard in the playroom and dragging it to wherever he can find space.

On the phone with my neighbor yesterday, she suggested Tangrams. I said, "That's a good idea. We have them, but I don't think he can get the lid off."

Guess who found the pattern blocks yesterday without my help or suggestion? I think this kid knows he's an unschooler.

So, what was I doing while my youngest was destroying the house playing? Well, organizing something, of course!

The boys' clothes have been overflowing two dressers, and they only wear half of what's in there. Middlest's legs are growing faster than his hair, plus he has sensitive skin and he's picky about what he'll wear. So, the other day I had him pull out everything he likes and actually fits him. Then I did my own sorting.

I managed to fit both boys' summer and winter clothes into one dresser, leaving the second for pajamas and for Littlest to move into. The top drawers are for socks, undies and kung fu uniforms. I filled three trash bags with clothes to pass down or repurpose. They don't have a lot left. But at least they fit!

Last night Littlest and I both slept 11 1/2 hours.

Today we're lazing around some more. We were supposed to blueberry picking with our homeschool group this morning. I set up the field trip a month ago, and then had to let everyone we'd be quarantined.

Eldest Boy fights things off hard and fast, so he's already back to himself for the most part. But Middlest is slower to get over illness, and is still hugging the sofa. Funny how their recovery time reflects their personalities!

(And, in case you're wondering, we do have a few cases of the swine flu in town, but that's not what my boys have.)

Monday, April 27, 2009

Spring Cleaning: the junk drawer

I haven't started any real spring cleaning yet, but I've been meaning to post this for a month...

So, a few weeks ago, when I was faced with the need to empty my entire kitchen of stuff, I figured out a way to get the boys to help -- and think it was fun.

I dumped the entire contents of our junk drawer...

...into a plastic trash bag. Then, after the bug-killers were gone, I got out a bunch of wide-mouthed pint jars that would fit in the drawer.

I told the boys I had a sorting game for them! Yes, those boys love to sort. They actually think sorting laundry is fun! (I'm not sure why I don't take advantage of that more often.)

They sorted paper clips, screws, crayons, rubberbands, batteries, birthday candles, tacks, and all sorts of junk. They sorted until their little fingers could sort no more.

And I was left with a MUCH more functional "junk" drawer.

It's the little things that count, really.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

This post is as overstuffed as our week was.

“Those who sow in tears shall reap with shouts of joy! He who goes out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, bringing his sheaves with him.”

--Psalm 126:5-6
As a friend said to me this week, "My cup runneth over and spilleth all over the floor."

It's been a very full week. Full of celebrations and laughter, full of emotions and tears.

My oldest son turned eight years old on Thursday. EIGHT! He received his first pocketknife, his first analog watch, and his first Rubik's Cube. Scott took the day off work, and we celebrated simply with friends and cupcakes at the park.

I cried all the next day. Over clean socks on the floor and other such nonsense. I was trying to catch up on the house and the garden after two weeks of alternating busy-ness and tiredness, and it was obviously too much for one day.

Thank you for all the well wishes and inquiries. I haven't seen the doctor about my test results yet, so I don't know any more, but my hormones were certainly doing their own thing this week. And I've been trying to prepare myself for their next arrival.

After I let out all the yuckies, Saturday was a lovely day. The boys wore themselves out on two bounce houses, sack races, and an inflated obstacle course, first at another birthday party and then our church's spring picnic. They slept hard last night!

Yesterday was good, too. I didn't even mind being peed on during nursery duty. I had a friend to chat and commiserate with, and we always enjoy ourselves.

Later in the day, we took the boys and my parents bowling, since that's what my Birthday Boy had requested instead of a big party. That was so much fun, we wondered why we don't do it more often!

I also got to spend some time in the garden. It was warm, and everything needed a drink. The tomato plants are doing well, including two volunteers that popped up in the compost pile. The corn, zucchini and green beans have sprouted. And the potatoes are starting to come up, too!

I started basil and another batch of peppers and tomatoes in cups. It was 99 degrees last Monday, but it's supposed to be in the 80s this week. If it gets very hot again before they're up, I'll bring them inside. We planted cantaloupe, watermelon, Delicata squash and butternut squash seeds directly in the ground.

Now that the garden is basically planted, I'm ready to focus on the indoors for a while. As long as I water once a day, and weed at least once a week, the garden should just do its thing for a while.

But the house needs some serious decluttering, organizing and spring cleaning! We'll see how that goes... I'm trying to let go of the impossible and just abide in Him.

Hold me tight, Lord, and don't let me get away.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Gratituesday: My body and a good doctor

On the eve of my birthday last week, I made myself a promise -- a promise to take better care of myself during the next year. I wrote this little list in my daytimer...
Go to bed earlier.
Get up earlier.
Drink water.
Move steadily.
Yes, I really do need such basic reminders sometimes. Have you ever noticed that putting off the need to pee can make a person really cranky?

Anyhow, I began my 35th year on my period, with a headache and swollen neck muscles, due to falling backwards on my noggin the day before. My throat was scratchy from what I assumed was allergies, but I wondered if I was fighting off a cold, too. I fell asleep on the couch two days in a row. Thankfully, the boys were happy to rollerskate up and down the sidewalk all week.

I finally gave in and called a doctor. I figured it was a good time for a thorough checkup. I haven't seen a doctor besides my OB and my kids' pediatrician in eight years. And I missed my last OB appointment. (Oops.)

Hubby's been bugging me to call his doc for months. My body has been struggling to keep up with the plans my head makes for it. After a year of PPD, I was doing relatively better the first half of 2008. But by the end of last summer, I was dragging myself out of bed again -- and having some very cranky days.

Sure, mothering can be exhausting, but is it normal to need need 10 hours of sleep at night, and to take another 3 hours to wake up?

Apparently not. Because when I went in on Friday to see my new doctor, an internist who specializes in hormone issues, it seemed pretty clear-cut to him: I've got a hypothyroid issue.

Did you know that the thinning of your lateral eyebrows is a sign of a lazy thyroid? Yep, I haven't just been overplucking. Doc checked my heel reflexes, and my left foot was sluggish. My right foot didn't move at all. That was pretty freaky.

Within an hour of getting home, my body decided it agreed with the diagnosis, and went full force into swollen gland lethargy. Whee! I spent the weekend mostly on the couch and in bed, getting up only to feed the hungry. (Scott was out of town.)

I must have rested enough, because I was able to wake up yesterday in time to go to the lab for my bloodwork, before taking the boys to rockclimbing class.

So, all that to say that I am REALLY grateful to know that I'm not just Mrs. Crazy-n-Lazy. My doctor's not going to send me to a shrink who will tell me I should stop homeschooling and put me on medication that'll make me kill my children. (Yeah, okay, so I'm not sure paranoia is a symptom of hypothyroid, but whatever.)

I am super grateful to have a good doctor who seems to know something useful, and believes he can help me feel better soon.

I am absolutely, incredibly blessed to have a husband who has put up with my mood and energy swings the last couple years, and still loves me.

And, I am grateful for my body. My poor, neglected, hypothyroid body. It's okay, Body, we're going to get better soon.

If you have something you're grateful for and want to share, visit Laura's blog.

Oh, and how did I miss that my Easter post was my 500th blog post?! My goodness -- a birthday, a medical revelation, and a huge blogging milestone in the same week?! I feel like I should have another giveaway, or something! Except that I have no idea what to give away. A box of Zicam? A prescription for Paxil? A good babysitter? I'm sure we could all use some of that!

Conversation with a cat

From Littlest this morning:

"Emma, do you want me to scratch you? Do you? NO, you DON'T. I don't want you to scratch me. That's the WRONG WAY. That's NOT RIGHT. Don't scratch me."

This, from the kid who thinks he's a cat 90 percent of the time, and has tormented Emma since he could reach out and grab her tail with his tiny fist.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

How does your garden grow?

Thank you for all the birthday wishes! I had a lovely day with my family, yummy food, roses, and two trips to the bookstore! I picked up a little inspiration with a giftcard from my friend Lauri. And my parents gave me an ice cream maker -- which kept the boys busy for a while yesterday!

They also spent a long time counting change from their piggy banks and sorting into bank rolls, which I found at the Dollar Tree last week. I was grateful for the distraction since the weather was wild outside, and I had a headache from a nasty fall on Monday. (I'm fine, but the stool for getting onto the trampoline is not! Yes, it's true, I'm officially too old for jumping... haha!)

Today we started our Disappearing Eggshell experiment -- but I realized my camera was dead too late to charge it! Maybe I'll get some pics of the final result tomorrow. In the meantime, I wanted to finally post about how our garden is doing!

This was the view from my kitchen window a couple weeks ago. The Chinese elm had just leafed out, and it was so peaceful outside.

Later, the wind picked up, and it became a little tricky to get out and garden since the dust and pollen gave us all the sneezes and sniffles. On Palm Sunday we stayed home from church so as not to gross everyone out, and spent some time catching up on our neglected garden.

My Eldest and Littlest helped plant potatoes next to the onions and garlic.

My seedlings have not done as well as I'd hoped, though I knew I was taking a chance to start them outside. The lettuces did fine, and three out of four green beans came up, but only one squash and one tomato sprouted. No peppers.

I'm hoping it's not to late to try again, this time in the ground directly. I gave in and bought a 6-pack of tomatoes just to have some. Then, a few days ago, I found a volunteer tomato plant sprouted in last season's compost pile! I carefully moved it to a safer place, so I hope the transfer doesn't kill it.

We weeded the peas and blackberry vines, which are doing great. Blooms on the berry vines already!

I planted cilantro with the tomatoes, but I need to clear out the winter patch to make room for more herbs. I will probably add some store-bought eggplant and peppers when this crazy weather is over. It's been in the 60s and very windy this week, but it's supposed to be in the 90s by the weekend!

The 20-foot stretch of ground below gave me the most trouble this spring. I spent hours and hours over the last three months combing through the soil with my gloved hands, filling buckets with broken glass, and digging up piles of tuberous roots.

A nasty, invasive tall grass has thrived in that spot since before we bought the house 11 years ago. My friend who gardened in our yard for 5 years had just ignored it. He dug up 90 years worth of broken glass from all over our yard, but after one or two attempts to get rid of the grass, decided it was too much trouble! But its time was up. I REALLY wanted to use that space.

Last week I finished amending the soil with the huge mound of compost Scott brought home for me. Into the ground went my corn and green beans!! Now we'll see if my trouble pays off, or if the grass takes over again!

We also planted our climbing summer squash. See how the Bibb lettuce self-seeded behind the trellis? I've been thinning the volunteers for weeks! They're doing way better than the lettuce I started myself even though they sprouted days apart.

We're also just enjoying the blooms of spring...

How is your garden growing?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Gratituesday: Birthdays and sisters

I mentioned that my sister Lindsay (above, left) came down from San Francisco to spend Easter weekend with us, but I didn't tell you she was also here to celebrate our birthdays together. She turned 27 in March, I turn 34 tomorrow (Tuesday).

Despite being only five hours away, she's a working girl -- a filming, editing, choreographing, dancing girl, so we don't get to see her very often. She's also my fashion consultant. Granted, I seek her company shopping, but you cannot blame her for my unhip clothing choices.

On Saturday, Lindsay, my mom, our friend Nancy and I spent a lovely lunch hour at our favorite hip, local Greek sports bar. She gave me some fabulous handmade earrings and a most awesome book. I gave her a cute bag and a new beach towel. (I definitely got the better gift.) Then my mom, sister and I headed to the mall to replace my most worn-out, stained, and shrunken clothing. (Thanks, Mom!!)

I'm not a big shopper, definitely not a big spender. I do go a little crazy buying books once in a while. When it comes to clothes, I know what I like -- natural fibers, classic styles, colors and patterns that hide stains without being gaudy -- and half the time it doesn't exist. Thus, my mother had to sew my wedding dress. I am determined to learn to make my own clothes.

But for now, I was extremely grateful to have a little help in dressing myself. I freaked my sister out with some of the items I pulled off the rack to admire, but in the end, I think she and my mom approved my choices.

Tomorrow I'm looking forward to another relaxing day -- out to lunch with my mom and the boys, dinner with my sweet hubby, and hopefully some time in my garden and knitting in between.

What to do with all those dyed eggs

We don't eat a lot of hard-boiled eggs around here. I suppose we should, considering how easy it would be to use up the dozens of eggs our chickens lay each week. But, anyway...

We do love to dye boiled eggs for Easter. Last week we tried these directions for dyeing with natural ingredients. We used purple grape juice, paprika, and green tea. I forgot we had spinach to use for green, or I would have tried that, too.

The green tea gave the most even color of the three. The grape juice-dyed eggs came out bumpy and speckled, as though the acid in the juice ate away some of the shell. Which leads us to our next project... Disappearing egg shells.

We're planning to do this Wednesday, so I'll let you know how it goes. If you decide to try it, leave me a comment!

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Celebrating Easter

Allelujah! Christ is Risen! The Lord is Risen, Indeed!

Wow. What a day. What a week. I hope it was a blessed one for you and yours! I am truly grateful and overwhelmed at the grace and blessings I've received this weekend.

The boys woke up early, excited to look for their Easter baskets. It didn't take them very long, since last year their baskets were hidden a little too well, and I didn't want to repeat that drama! I was so happy to find chocolate Easter crosses, Christian Easter stickers, and Bible-themed jigsaw puzzles at the Dollar Tree!

We had Easter breakfast with my parents and youngest sister, who came for the weekend from San Francisco. Then we headed to church. My fellow nursery teachers and I -- all three of us -- were left in charge of the 40-plus children 12 and under who came for the Easter egg hunt, Bible story, and snack.

We ordered cross-shaped sugar cookies from our favorite local bakery, and I made frosting in pastel colors for the kids to glop on and get all over their Easter finery. Actually, they all did really well. No, I did not have time to grab my camera!

Despite some communication glitches between the service and Sunday school, the morning went very smoothly -- no one cried, no one got lost, no one fought, and we all made it to the service in time for communion!

After we cleaned up the parish hall, we headed home for an afternoon of rest... boy style.

My sister hung out with the boys and my camera all afternoon, while I got out of my Easter skirt and into my pjs for some chatting and knitting.

My dad barbecued, and my mother set a beautiful table for Easter dinner.

I hope your day was full of grace, peace, and celebrations of our Savior!

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Lenten goodness

Spring has a way of opening up endless possibilities... the weather is lovely, so we want to be outside -- but do we go out in our garden, or leave home for the fun field trip? We've done as much as we can do of both lately.

I don't remember last spring being so busy, but maybe it was. We had new baby chicks, so we needed to be home more to take care of them. We were putting in our little garden, and building the coop. And we had our Lenten Shabbat dinners, which we have not done this year.

Maybe I always feel like this in spring -- like the season is so perfect and so very short, and I can't possibly squeeze enough into it.

Valerie Bendt wrote, “We should not let the good things crowd out the best things.” This is so where I am right now -- choosing between the good and the best, and trying to discern which is which.

Maybe my trouble is trusting that I'll ever catch the best if I leave the good behind to chase it. There's SO MUCH GOOD around me!

But trying to keep up with my boys' need for ACTION! has left me feeling like I haven't observed the quiet, reflective season of Lent very well -- and here it is Easter week.

Then, yesterday, I found a surprise in my mailbox. An angel left a little book for me, a 30-day devotional called, "Becoming A Woman who Walks with God."

It's so easy to walk with Him when I'm tired and worn out and need a lift. Maybe that's why He's let me run around so much lately.

He knows too well that when I'm feeling fine and everything's going peachy, that I'm tempted to climb out of His arms like toddler yearning for independence, saying, "Thanks, Lord, but I can walk on my own for a while now. I know where I want to go."

But it's when I let go of His hand, and run off on my own, that I inevitably trip and fall and reach, crying, for Him again.

This week, I want to make sure we remember where our freedom and joy come from.

“Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”
--John 1:29

Friday, April 03, 2009

Another homeschooling interview

Oops, I forgot to let you know that Debbie Harbeson interviewed me for her homeschooling interview series. So sweet of her to choose me. My answers were a little on the silly side, but hopefully she didn't mind.

More posts to come, I promise. April is already getting away from me...
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