Archive for December, 2009

a little bit like heaven

This week Jacob walked up to Dave and told him “I want a baby sister.”  Dave laughed because he knew that I put him up to it.  He promptly asked Jake how he’d like twin brothers.   Neither of us are quite willing to test my over active ovaries or fate.  Though there are days that my heart aches for little baby toes and fingers, I know that probability isn’t on my side.   More likely we’d be blessed with another boy, and I’m not sure that I could survive the noise.

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We don’t have network or cable tv.   This means we can’t blame our children’s bad behavior on Spongebob, or Hannah Montana, or Tom and Jerry for that matter.   This doesn’t mean that our kids are perfect little angels though.  It just means they have to get their inspiration else where.

No tv means that we procreate a lot, or so lots of random strangers tell me at the grocery store.  “Wow!  You have a lotta kids!  You must not have a tv!”  I don’t know how those two things are related, but somehow people who grocery shop think they are.  People with television must have very poor sex lives.  Besides procreating, we read a lot.  We listen to audio books and I read aloud a lot.  Some days my voice is hoarse from all of the reading.

Recently I read Mike Henry Huggins by Beverly Clearly.  Henry is an ordinary little boy around the age of 9.  The whole book is about Henry’s capers.  The book was so entertaining that Marshall decided to listen with us.

This book gave him some interesting ideas to earn money.

He tried to convince me to let him saturate our lawn and then go worm hunting after dark.  I informed him that was a summer activity and we don’t know anyone willing to buy worms.

Besides being a worm hunter, Henry is also an accidental fish breeder.  He bought a fish who happened to be pregnant.   Those fish bred with each other and pretty soon he had more fish than he knew what to do with.  He brought them to the pet store hoping that the shop keeper could find them a new home, or sterilize them, really anything would do at that point.  The shop keeper offered to buy them for $13.  Dollar signs immediately went off in Marshall’s head.

I didn’t make the connections quite so quickly.

Marshall:  If I gave  you all of my change, would you exchange it for dollar bills?
Me:  Sure I guess.
Marshall:  Can we go to Walmart?
Me:  No.
Marshall:  But I NEED to go!
Me:  Why?
Marshall:  I need to buy a new fish
Me:  Why?  Did yours die?
Marshall:  No.  He’s lonely.  I need to buy him a wife.

I then promptly broke his dreams.

Me:  You can’t buy another fish.  You have a beta.  They’ll kill each other.  You don’t know how to care for a pregnant fish.
Marshall:  They must not always kill each other because then how would we get more fish?


Me:  Sorry, no.

But I don’t think he’s letting his dreams of being a fish breeder and $13 go.  I’ve noticed lots of books coming home from the library about fish care and fish breeding.  And then I found about 50 pictures of his fish on my camera.

I think he’s going to bring his photos into the pet store to see which of the girl fish will go wild for his male.  Yes, my son is the fish matchmaker.

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Do you see that?  Look real close.  You might have to click on the picture and then zoom in.  That’s not rain, it’s snow.  I know it looks like rain because the ground is wet, but it’s not, it’s snow.  For my friends who live in other states and on other continents and are used to the snow, I know you’re thinking, “a little snow big deal.”  But it is a big deal.  We live in California, land of sunshine and surfing.  The last time it snowed here was 20 years ago.  It was, and still is, shocking.

The phone started ringing at about 6 am.  Little girls were leaving very excited messages on the answering machine.  I was the first one up and debated quite awhile about waking the kids up.  On one hand early risers at my house usually equals cranky children and a mom who wishes she was a lush, on the other hand, snow is exciting.  I woke the kids up.

Mckayla, who was the most excited about the snow, showed very little excitement at 6:30.  She opened her eyes, rolled over, looked out the window and said, “that’s cool” and promptly fell back asleep.

The boys were very excited.  That’s not  They must have watched out the window for a good 15 minutes.  The whole time talking about how deep the snow would get and how big their snowman was going to be.

Well, except for Nathaniel who kept looking at me like I was crazy and saying, “not snow Mommy, rain.”

Every picture of Mike this year has this goofy excited face.  I should contact some kind of catalog company that pictures goofy kids.  He’ll fit right in.  Almost every picture of Marshall has that sour puss face.  Go figure, similar DNA completly different personaliteis.  They stood outside for a very long time catching snowflakes on their nose and eyelashes, dreaming of snowball fights.

Of course, the whole time I watched them from inside with the roasting fire and a warm cup of coffee.  Because, no matter how exciting snow is, it’s cold.

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We have lots of Advent calendars around the house.   We have books, and paper chains and fabric calendars and a 2 light up fibroic optic Christmas countdowns.  We have so many that it does become a little tedious.  Sadly, many of them are not on the same day. Marshall and I had a debate today if it was December 6 or 7.  Google had to settle it for us.  Marshall won.

It’s hard to tell which day it is because Nathaniel loves the calendars just as much as I do.  He likes to take everything off of them and then put them all back on.  Over and over again.  This may be all part of his devilishly clever master plan, pretty soon we’ll find that there are only 10 days until Christmas because he’s lost all of the peices.

Four years ago I found another wonderful way to count down to Christmas. The Autobiography of Santa Claus.  This is Santa’s story told in 24 chapters.  One for each day of December.  The story is told in such a way that it incorporates real historical events and people.  We’ve met many historical characters like St. Patrick, King Arthur, and Atilla the Hun.  It starts with Santa’s birth in 280 AD and continues through history until present day.

Of course, I can only guess that it goes until present day because we’ve never made it all the way through.  Not because the story isn’t interesting, but because it doesn’t seem like there are ever enough hours in the day.  This year we are determined to make it to the end.  Everyone told their synopsis of the story and we started from where we ended last year.

I am so very grateful that I splurged for the audiobook.  The reader is really delightful to listen to and exactly what I imagine Santa to sound like.  Each chapter is 20 to 30 minutes long.  While we listen to the story the kids drink hot chocolate, eat candy canes and work on a Christmas puzzle (that usually takes us until New Years to finish).  I’ve found that treats and busy hands help everyone to concentrate.

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It’s good to have a son

By now you’ve realized why I don’t blog every day.  I don’t have much to say and it’s hard to consistently be witty and entertaining.   And my little red kettle is over there jingling away feeling rather sad that you haven’t donated yet.  Really, do you want to be responsible for your poor elderly neighbor’s heat to be turned off?  It’s supposed to snow here tonight.  The elderly will be dying left and right without heat and temperatures dipping cold enough to snow.  Look, you might have killed someone with your stinginess.

I’ll let you know if the guilt tactics help the kettle.

Today I’ll resort to talking about my grass, yet again.  I guess it’s more about my oldest son.  The son who is destined to inherit everything, all our land, the greatest blessing, all our sheep and cows.  He’ll get it all.  Of course, he’ll be sorely disappointed that there won’t be much to inherit.  We don’t have any sheep or cows,  I’m sure our dog will be long gone, I think we own an 1/8 of an acre or some ridiculously small plot.  He’ll either get a dilapidated house, because let’s face it, our house if falling apart now, I’m not sure what kind of condition it’ll be in 70 years (I plan to live for a long time).  Or he’ll find that we’ve sold everything to buy a Cessna and a tent.  Either way, it’s not much to write home about.  But then, when we’re dead, no one will be home to get the letter, so who cares anyways.

When we put in our grass Marshall offered to mow it for us.  His going rate?  A quarter.  Yep, 25 cents.  We quickly agreed. We don’t own a lawn mower.  We tossed around the idea of buying a push mower, the kind without a motor.  Marshall wanted a mower with power! He worked out a great deal with his grandma.  He would mow her lawn for a $1.00 and then she’d drive him and her lawn mower to our house  so that he could work over here.

After the first time he mowed the lawn, he decided that he needed to raise his prices.  He now charges us 25 cents for the front yard and 25 cents for the back yard.

Our neighbors all use the same gardener.  Once the gardener noticed our dirt had turned into a patchwork lawn, he put a brochure on our door.  $25!  I should give up my life of ease and become a gardner.  I promptly threw it in the garbage.  Marshall empties the trash.  I should have tore it into little pieces and then ground it up in the garbage disposal.  He tried to negotiate higher prices.  I told him the gardener does fancy things like edging, weed wacking, raking, bush trimming, and leaf blowing.  Plus, the gardener doesn’t live in my house and eat my food either.

He convinced Grandma Sharon to let him use the leaf blower and weed wacker.  I know he’s trying to work his way up to the $25 prices.  All he needs is an edger, a rake, and a beat up old pick up (probably a driver’s license too) and he can start his own business.  I think he may have gotten his amazing gardening skills from my people too.

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The horder

The boys and I went shopping today.

Getting out the door is really half the battle for me.  It involves dressing them, which includes an underwear and sock check.  I can’t tell you how many times we’ve gone somewhere and someone is commando, or they take their shoes off and I discover their socks have more holes than sock.  I want to know how do they get so many holes in their socks?  I must buy a new package of socks on a monthly basis. Then we have to find matching shoes.  Everyone has to use the bathroom.  Everyone needs to gather their stuff.  I don’t know why they need toys for the 10 minute drive to Walmart, but they do.

At this stage Nathaniel starts to scream with frustration.  He was angry because he couldn’t fit both of Mr. Potato heads arms in his pocket along with Mr. P’s suitcase, popcorn, ears, nose, angry eyes and shoes.  I kid you not.   That kid has magic carpetbag pockets.  I couldn’t convince him to leave any part of Mr. Potato head behind.  “Mommy guy needs popcorn!”  I did convince him to pack them in a bag.  Which he conveniently slung around his neck like a giant necklace.

I wouldn’t quite label him a horder.  He’s more of a collector of things.  His pockets are always full of little toys.  He always has a doll or bear nearby.  If he’s playing cars, you can bet he’ll have 2 in each pocket and a few in his lap.   Tonight he unzipped his feetie pajamas and started pulling out a huge pile of crap.  A wooden horse, two marbles, a menagerie of tiny cats and dogs, Mr. Potato heads eyeball, a car, an army man. It’s really rather incredible.

Or maybe this collecting thing is really a survival technique.   When you have four siblings you have to keep a close eye on your things.

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I love homeschooling

Almost every day I wake up excited to homeschool.  Well, except for the days that I don’t.  Or the days that my daughter decides to act like a sully teenager.  On those days I dream of public school, sometimes even boarding school.

More often than not, I’m excited for science.  This year I picked an amazing science curriculum.  There are science experiments a few times a week.

(the boys making meteors)

I’m excited for history.  With three kids in three different grades, we’re covering a large chunk of history.  This is  McKayla after we wrapped up our Egyptian unit.  She put Kohl on her eyes and wrote her name in Hieroglyphics.  Let’s hope this isn’t a peak into how she’ll want to do her makeup.

I love the impromptu field trips.  Playing hookie at the California Railroad Museum in Old town Sacramento.  The best part about homeschool fieldtrips…all the other kids are in school! 

I love that homeschooling allows the kids to be creative.  Dave bought a large box of popsicle sticks for scouts.  It’s been used to make bridges, catapults, and army tents.  On the flip side, we go through more masking tape than a painter.

My favorite part is probably the sibling interaction.  It feels like a majority of my day is spent referring the constant barrage of battles and squabbles.  Amidst all of the bickering I find little nuggets of joy.  Mike reading to the babies.  Marshall helping Mike with his math.  McKayla sounding out words for the boys.  Everyone is learning from each other.  The twins are excited to learn, in turn the kids are excited to teach them, which helps reinforce their own learning.

Even on the days when it feels like there isn’t enough caffeine to get me through the day, I’m happy to be spending them with my kids.

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Let me tell you about some of the joys of home ownership.  These are the things no one tells you about.  And if they do, you’re so excited about the prospect of owning a home, you ignore them.

You have to do all of your own yard work.  Even after it’s done and still looks like crap, there’s no one to blame but yourself.

Grass grows fast, like insanely fast.  Leaves fall faster.  Bushes get bushier just after you cut them.  Before you know it, your house will look like all the other foreclosed homes.

Your home doesn’t come with a gardener.  Thank goodness for sons, you’ll consider having more to add to the workforce.

Pretty much everything at the nursery should have a big sign that reads “I’m expensive.  I only look good with a menagerie of other expensive plants.  Wherever you’re thinking about planting me, I’ll die.”

Grass is expensive.  Thank goodness for great friends.

Your home doesn’t come with a maintenance man.  You better hope your husband is handy and a quick learner.  It’s amazing how quick an engineer turns into a plumber, a sprinkler repair man, a roofer, and a fence builder.

Home Depot will be your second home.  You’ll consider buying stock or at the very least, applying for a night job for the discount.

Roofs are expensive.  Not just kind of expensive, but more like, I could buy a cheap car for the price of a new roof.

Your children will leave the bathroom sink faucet on.  It will overflow and warp your Pergo.  You might also hear it drip into the bathroom downstairs.  Even though there is no signs of leakage, you’ll be afraid to turn the light on, for fear of electrocution.  You’ll make the kids pee with the door open.

All of your appliances will start to act up the week after your home warranty runs out.

If something breaks, expect it to snowball.  “Honey, the roof is leaking.”  Expect a quick fix it during a torrential down pour.  Decide to take down a ceiling fan and replace the fan box.  Patch the ceiling.  Re-texture the ceiling.  By some new tools.  Paint the wall.  Hang the fan.

Whatever you expect.  Prepare for the worst.

Our heater is acting up.  It likes to heat the house up, and then run the fan until it cools the house down, so that the heater can heat the house up again.  I think it’s a conspiracy with the electric company.

I’m thankful that the upstairs heating unit has decided to cooperate.  Dave has suddenly become the heater repairman too.   Unfortunately the repairman is busy with final projects and commuting and work.  Until it gets fixed, I’ve decided to use our wood burning stove downstairs and insist that everyone wear sweaters and socks.

It’s not arctic tundra cold, or even midwest in the winter cold, but it is rather chilly in my house. I don’t mind it too much.  Unlike the rest of the family, I have no problem with socks and sweaters.  It doesn’t seem too cold anyways with all of the cleaning and cooking and laundry and chasing after the kids.  Honestly, I didn’t notice it until Jacob decided to wear Christmas stocking on his feet.  “My feet are cold Mommy!”

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Do Your Best!

Dave’s an eagle scout.  It means all sorts of things.  He’s always well prepared.  His car trunk is more like a survival store than a trunk.  He is rather good in the first aid arena, which comes in handy with four boys.  He’s pretty good at starting a fire and fixing things (I’m not sure how those two go together, but each of those phrases seemed lonely standing alone).  He’s rather comfortable with nature, which I’m sure would come in handy if we did anything outdoorsy.  He has a fond affinity for tan and olive green. I’m sure scouts has helped form him into the great guy he is today.

Being an eagle scout also means that we are very involved with our cub scout pack.  Every Monday night and a couple of Saturdays a month, the boys put on their uniforms and do boy stuff.  This week we had a Pack meeting.  Pack meetings serve two purposes.  At these meetings the scouts recieve recognition for all of their hard work.  Secondly, they serve to torture the scout’s parents.  The scouts usually have to sing a song or put on a skit.  This requires them to practice during the week.  Scout skits are inheritly corny.  Scout songs are almost always the songs that get stuck in your brain.

Marshall’s den gave an outstanding rendition of “I wouldn’t want to be a Turkey” sung to the tune of “have you ever seen a Lassie”.  I will let you Google it.  Be forewarned, if you read the words, they will be burned into your brain.  You will catch yourself singing to yourself as you wash the dishes or walk into your next business meeting.

Mike’s den performed a small skit.  He practiced on the way home from Southern California.  The 9 hour car ride home.  He had it memorized after an hour, but we were forced to listen to it over and over again.

His part:

Scout #2 (carries a plank):  It is not what the boy does to the wood, but rather what the wood does for the boy.

He was very excited to be the boy carrying the wood.  He asked his den leader to bring a really big peice of wood.  He practiced all day Monday including on the way to the meeting.  We all knew his part rather well.  Mike would start and Marshall would finish the sentence.  Crying and yelling would ensue.  It was a wonderful day.

We get to the meeting and everyone goes their merry ways.  Marshall and Dave go find their fellow Webelos.  Mike sits with the Tigers, and I get to sit in the audience.  We wait through rewards and annoucements for the skits.  Finally it’s Mike’s turn. Everyone is sitting at the edge of their seats waiting for an Oscar performance.

What?  What happened?  Instead of saying his lines nice and loud, like he practiced ALL WEEKEND long, he read them quietly to himself over and over again.  Then he whispered them aloud.  Of course we hooted and clapped, but I felt a little jipped after the torturous practicing.

Every Monday, you can find us, in our uniforms, at scouts shaping little boys into great men.

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Christmas Traditions

When we lived in Southern California, I dragged Dave with me to buy a Christmas tree.  My first real tree.  I think I had an extra thirty minutes and $40 in my pocket.  We ran to Home Depot picked out a tree, threw it on top of the van, and brought it home.  Tradition was born.

Dave mocks my Home Depot tradition.  I know he has visions of the perfect tree.  His tree hunt involves a long drive into the forest and singing Christmas carols.  His perfect tree is found in the middle of the forest, the snow covered forest.  He chops it down and we drag it to the car.  All the while singing O Tannebaum (in German, of course).  We sing the whole way home and enjoy hot cocoa as we set the tree up.

My tradition is short and fast.  It happens so fast no one has the opportunity to be upset.   There is singing on the way to the Depot, if you count the kids chanting, “We’re getting a Christmas Tree” over and over again.   My Christmas tree is found at the back of the parking lot, sorted by size and, more importantly, by price.  We choose the height we want and let the kids loose in the 7′ and up section.  The kids randomly point to trees.  Dave picks them up and twirls them around.  He shakes them to see how many needles fall off.  It’s kind of like kicking a car’s tires or thumping a watermelon.  We’re not quite sure what we should be expecting, but we do it anyway.

We all vote.  Once we’ve found a winner, we drag it up to the front.  Mr. Home Depot hands out candy canes and then tends to our tree.  He cuts it, bags it, and tags it.  We pay for it, heave it on top of the car, and we make our way home.  All the fun and excitement is over in less than 30 minutes.  Sometimes it might take longer.  The lines might be long or we might have to stop inside for a new toilet or something (home ownership really sucks sometimes).  More often than not, we’re home in less than a half hour.

I crank up the Christmas music and make hot chocolate.  The kids move the furniture while Dave starts the hard, poky job of aligning the tree.

I think it takes longer to set the tree up, than it does for us to find it.  For this, I’m grateful for my quick and fast Home Depot tree.

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