Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Breakfast Theater

Did you grow up with cartoony placemats that you looked at during all those meals of liver and onions? You know the ones I am talking about - Smurfs, Batman, Care Bears. Well, they are still alive and well at the local Wal-Mart and my children are in love. Walk with me through the following scenario...

We were buying a few items at Wal-Mart not too long ago when Leah spotted a rack of vinyl placemats bearing her much loved Care Bears. They are STILL around even after some 20+ years. Anyway, she gawked, pleaded, looked tortured as we walked past and finally said it - "Weese Mama". How does one say "no" to that? So we circled back to the rack and she immediately thrilled to holding her very own ($1.97) Care Bear placemat. When we caught up with Daddy and the others Caleb asked, "Can I get one to, Mama?" Sure. Caleb (and Bethany, rather surreptitiously) went to check out the rack. They both came back satisfied, one with Superman and the other with Strawberry Shortcake (I'll let you figure which went with whom). I turned to Hannah and asked her if she wished to pick one out too. Nope, she wasn't really interested.

The following morning all placemat owning children were ecstatic to be getting ready for breakfast. In case you are an unfortunate who has never tasted rice chex out of a bowl perched atop a flaming pink rendition of fluffs all comically named after sweet smelling vegetation; or seen your lunch staring at you from above a masterfully depicted scene of certain worldly catastrophe but for the muscle-bulging hero using large quantities of unknown substances to fuel highly efficient brain cells - well, you don't know living. But I digress.

I heard the kids getting giddy over placing their bowls on their mats and wondered if Hannah was regretting her decision of the previous night. So far so good. They were eating. My curiosity got the best of me...

Hannah did not forego the pleasure of a placemat. In fact, in her industry she picked one that we already owned and was contentedly reading it below her breakfast.

Relative orbital paths of each of our (9) planets, along with information on each planet's atmosphere and chemical make-up. The back is better - it tells her about the different types of satellites, from man-made to natural moons and also distinguishes between the different stars and novas seen in our galaxy. Nice.

Are ya still there?

Okay, okay... so I have been remiss. I can at least blame shift - Christopher was supposed to post a rather epic piece on his journey to the highest point in the contiguous United States. If you razz him about it he might finally finish it and get it on here *wink*.
So, what has been happening in our life, as of late? Hmmm... what hasn't happened? In our family there is always something going on. But the following post should give you a good helping of Odd after so long a fast. :)

Friday, September 29, 2006

It's STILL Coffee

As an update to my previous post I have learned the following -

Pumpkin Pie Spice Frappucino (the cold, slushy version) can be made with cream instead of coffee. I will have to check it out.

Also, my friend Jill, the one that shall not remain nameless since she caused my addiction to Chai, has been explaining to a few people my aversion to coffee. She received the following response

Has she tried decaff?

Ummm, yeah.


Sunday, September 10, 2006

It's Coffee

The local coffee mega-store (which shall remain nameless) introduced a new flavor recently: Pumpkin Pie Spice, Latte or Frappuccino. I have been eyeing it for some time and wondering how much I might like it. But before I launch into my findings (which you must recognize are note worthy) let me give you some back ground on me... and coffee.

I grew up like many of you, I would imagine, with a mother (or father, as the case may be) who drank coffee just about every morning. She still does. "Nothing like that first cup of coffee, " she is known to say. She is a coffee purest and drinks it black. I have overheard many people compliment her on her coffee. I have distinct memories of my mornings beginning with the sound of the automatic coffee mill grinding the beans before brewing them at exactly 6:05am. My mom transferred her creation into a thermos promptly after brewing so the bottom didn't burn but the temperature stayed ideal - hot. And each night she set the whole process up for the following day's ritual. On the weekends she would sit in the over-sized lounge chair in our living room, watch out the window for any happenings on the street, read the previous week's worth of papers and magazines, and drink her thermos of coffee. I slept in, so she was always up before me. But every Saturday looked almost identical to the one before - me shuffling out at 10am to see my mom buried under papers (ostensibly stacked "read" and "unread" on either side of her legs, which were stretched across the ottoman) with Albert our dachshund curled between her and the chair and her thermos of coffee sitting on the floor with her cup perched on the table lamp next to her. This was adulthood. It embodied everything I found utterly boring or unappetizing. Somehow I knew that I would have to start liking these things before I could grow up.

I have still been unable to complete this rite of passage. And as a result my nearly 10 years of marriage and 5 children do not cut the mustard in making me feel like an adult. If I could sit down for one Saturday, read an entire newspaper, and drink a pot of coffee, I truly think the heavens would part and I would be accepted into the Fraternity of Adulthood. Oh well. You see coffee doesn't taste like it smells (and the French Roast my husband likes can stay in France for all I care). My mom says it does. My girlfriends who drink coffee say it does. My husband says it does. They are lying. It doesn't. If it did, I would drink it. So needless to say Starbucks, or any other shop painted in muted tones with too-obvious hints of Parisian sidewalk cafes, had gone rather unnoticed by me. I didn't worry about how much money I was spending at them. I wasn't embarrassed that the barista knew my name AND my order before I could take my place in the back of the line. No, I was naive. Innocent. Free.

Then my dear friend, Jill (she shall not remain nameless since it is to her that I owe my utter destruction) introduced me to Chai. Just the name rolls off my tongue like butter. It is a tea with a heavy spice component making it taste very similar to pumpkin pie (without the pumpkin, as Jill would point out - she dislikes pumpkin pie). I liked it the first few times I had one. Then I began to learn the ways of the Jedi in ordering my Chai. The Starbucks version of Chai is actually a Chai Latte, meaning they mix a liquid tea & spice concentrate with milk and water. If you omit the water, it lends itself to a creamier and richer drink. I like that. Then I learned that for a Tall they use 3 pumps of mix, Grande equals 4 pumps, and Venti is 5 pumps. If I added an extra pump to the drink, I got a zing of flavor. I like that, too. The barista now knows my order - a five-pump, no water, grande chai latte. But I haven't entirely capitulated. And after my experiment with the Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte, I am in no danger of totally selling out. So now we may return to the original post...

A couple of weeks ago I noticed the new flavor being tauted as a "slice of Paris." I have been to Paris. That is beside the point. The point is that I like pumpkin pie and its spices, and I LOVE Chai (which is, as I stated above, pumpkin"less" pumpkin pie). So I asked the barista what the difference was between a Chai Latte and the new Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte. The following is a general gist of her response:

"The Chai houses a more dynamic and robust spice blend, using a base more like allspice or cloves, while the Pumpkin Pie Spice has a subdued flavor with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. They each have their own distinct taste."


I was a chicken to try it then. But just today I decided I was going to find out what this, "...subdued flavor with hints of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger" was all about.

IT'S COFFEE. Yea, coffee. I took my first sip and about spit it out. I took another sip, still gross. Coffee. In my utter forsaking of the coffee world, I had forgotten that a latte traditionally means espresso with milk. Espresso - the mother of all coffees. When I asked for a description between the two drinks, the gal forgot to mention that the Pumpkin Pie Spice Latte was ultimately a base of espresso. No wonder her appraisal of the flavors were more "subdued." Um, yea. You simply can't overpower the taste of espresso with a few drops of cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger - I don't care if your cinnamon does come from Madagascar.

So, I am once again reminded that I am still not an adult. Who decided drinking coffee and reading the newspaper was grown up, anyway?

Thursday, September 07, 2006


Leah has many idiosyncrasies that make us laugh heartily on a daily basis. For instance, she can not allow the buckle on Mary's bouncer seat, or swing to remain open. The INSTANT (I mean this quite literally) Mary is removed she is seen bent over and re-buckling the clasps. It proves annoying when you are trying to get the baby back in the seat.

Leah loves to love her baby dolls and insists on bringing one down every morning (usually every time she comes downstairs from anything). Did you hear that... every trip a NEW baby doll must be brought downstairs. So each night the gang rounds up all her dolls and carries them back upstairs to start the process anew the following day. She carries the doll hooked in the crook of her elbow and pats its head cooing, "s'okay".

We have to keep Leah locked in her crib using a special tent or else she would be out in a jiffy. And since she can't climb out she has taken to jumping up and down while in. She can do this for hours. And of course her favorite time is not at nap time when she would not be bothering any one, but rather bedtime after the girls have crawled in and the light is off. Oh, and she squeals with delight while jumping.
Abeba da goo buds
Nice. We have tried scolding, spanking, ignoring, laying her back down, scolding some more, ignoring some more, another spank... it doesn't work. She goes to sleep when she is ready.

Leah sucks her thumb and cuddles, which is so precious and completely disarms us. She knows our weaknesses and has no qualms in using them to her advantage. Daddy will play "chase" with her and when she has had enough she just turns around and puckers up for him to give her kisses (a rare treat for him) which successfully stops his game. When she wants my attention she turns me towards her, using her hands on my chin or pushing against my legs so that I am forced to acknowledge her. She does not accept defeat gracefully.

Recently her words have given her a new weapon in the fight for absolute dominion over our family. She hones them to a razor sharp edge. And if that doesn't work volume does. Just yell louder, more. Just Yell Louder, More. JUST YELL LOUDER, MORE. You get the idea.

Christopher and I often wonder what we would do for entertainment if we didn't live in Odd. It would be boring to go back to checking the newspaper for show listings. Heck, who needs a movie - we have front row seats to comedy, tragedy and drama every 5 minutes.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Recipe Exchange?

I recently hosted a Pampered Chef party and purchased several new pieces for my collection. My enthusiasm to use the cookware has led to more baking and recipe experimentation than usual in my home. Add to this my "mother of the year" award for baking mini cookies with my girls on Sunday (we used their bakeware set given to them at Christmas and I even let them crack the eggs) and you can begin to see that the children have baking on the brain.

Especially Bethany.

"Mama, I have a new recipe for you that I think would be really good."

"Oh yea, Bethany? What is it?"

"Well, you start with some water and you boil butter into it, until it is all melted. Then you grate some yellow (cheddar) cheese and some of that hard cheese that you can cut using that special thing you could have bought from your cook party you had - what is that?"


"Yea, parmesan. So you grate some of that with the special cutter (you would have to buy that one, but I would cut it for you because I loved that cutter and when I get married I want one of those. So you can just buy me one when I get married.)"


"Then you put the yellow cheese and the, what's it called again, parmashun? Yea, parmashun cheese into the water with the butter and you let it cook in the microwave for about 10 minutes. But you don't want it to cook for too long."

"Of course not! "

"So after you take it out of the microwave you mix in some flour, and some of that special chocolate we used for my cookies. What was it called?"

"Baker's chocolate."

"Yep, that's it. You mix in some of that and then you crumple ritz crackers into it and stir it up. And after you stir it you put in just a little bit of salt and sage. And then you put it in the oven and you bake it at, ummm, about 50 degrees for 2 hours. Doesn't that sound delicious?"

You have no idea, Bethany.

Thursday, August 31, 2006

Nope, let me change that - Digger Man

Caleb really enjoys checking out the men and their machines at construction sites. So while we were driving home, passing yet another construction site where a real live "Scoop" machine was working, he asked me, "Mama, can I be a digger man? I wanna ride Scoop and dig big holes." What is a mother to say?

First, I would love to encourage my son in all his pursuits. But I would also like to keep him from being a hamburger flipper at the local fast food joint for the rest of his life (can I hear an "amen"?). I want him to be secure in a job that can provide for his family. Do I want him to be a successful businessman? What about retirement benefits? Does college automatically insure a quality of life otherwise lost to digger men? Hmmm...

The bible is silent on what is a good job and what is not. Of course I would never want him running the local mafia group, but then I think the whole Thou Shalt Not Steal (or that other one about murder) pretty much nails that case closed. It does however, say that we are to do all things for the glory of the Lord (1 Corinthians 10:31). I think if we had workers, both blue and white collar, who were more concerned about doing their jobs to the glory of the Lord we would ALL see a huge difference. It is not difficult to imagine just a few examples of how our world fails to meet a quality of excellence because people were not willing to put their 100% into their job. Selfishness is the biggest inhibitor. Sacrificing the time and energy it takes to be good takes selflessness. You have to be willing to make your employer rich while accepting the wage he gives you (which is often substantially LESS than the profit he is making off of your work). You have to be willing to use discernment to understand when you might need to stay late to make sure the report is done correctly. You must accept your approval from a source other than your co-workers and sometimes even your boss. People like to shirk responsibility with others. If you are pulling your load you can bet others watching you are going to feel convicted, and angry. "How dare you make me look bad" is a statement often times expressed by an outraged worker who has the hand of God-given guilt upon them. And even business owners who want to deal shrewdly, and immorally with clients will get their noses bent out of shape by your integrity. But...

The LORD does not look at the things man looks at. Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart. (1 Samuel 16:7b)

So what do I want for my son? I want him to be a mighty representative for the Lord. In whatever he does I want him to have a joy that comes from a passion for Christ. I would love it if that could include something he enjoys (although we are not guaranteed job happiness in scripture). And so, for now, I am going to encourage my little boy's pursuits in whatever direction he chooses (minus the mafia).

"Of course you can be a digger man, Caleb."

Sigh, "thank you, mama, for letting me be a worker man."

Thank you, Caleb, for reminding me that it really isn't about the prestige of having the "right" job.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Band Man

We went to the Monterey County Fair for my 32nd birthday - August 15th for those of you wondering - and as a result, Caleb has completely redirected his life. He wants to be a Band Man. Specifically, he wants to play the banjo, like a particular band man he saw at the fair. He is quite smitten. The musician, Charlie Hurley, made my son's year by giving him a CD. We now listen to it daily. Perhaps Caleb can inspire future firefighters during their long and arduous battles with his pleasant tunes upon one of his numerous banjos. He still wants to go back to the firehouse. And he asks me daily if I remember him going in the first place. When I assure him I do remember he says, "Hmm, Mama?"
"Yes, Caleb?"
"I want to be a band man."

Monday, August 14, 2006

In Case You Were Wondering

While I was writing my previous post on our trip to the firehouse, I through it would be neat if I could include a link to the Carmel City Fire Department. I did a quick search on trusty Google for Carmel Fire, and while nothing specific to the actual firehouse came up, the following caught my eye. Take a look.

In case you were wondering... Carmel City Firehouse is putting together a cook off at the Carmel Farmer's Market on August 26th. The Market is open from 7:30am until 11am. According to the blurb on the website, firefighters are going to put together their favorite firehouse recipes for our enjoyment. I thought this would be a GREAT way to reintroduce the firehouse to Caleb. And he would get to see his friend, Captain Bruce! I emailed Christopher the info to see what he thought of it. He agreed it sounded like a blast! Perfect, just check a few details, get my ducks in a row, cross my "t"s and dot my "i"s, ad nauseum...

Umm, slight problem. I don't recognize the location from the MapQuest map. I figured it must be on the outskirts of the city where I am not as familiar with street names. I think, "I will just zoom out until I see Ocean or Carpenter. That way, I will have some bearing on where exactly we need to go." I scroll out. This is what I see.

Yup. Carmel, INDIANA. Needless to say, we won't be able to make it to the cook off.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006


We have officially trumped Caleb's interest in fires and firefighting. How so, you might ask? Simple... get really excited yourself about showing him a firehouse, buy him a special firefighter outfit complete with his own name, and make special plans to have a privately guided tour through one of the neatest firehouses on the peninsula!

We visited the Carmel City Firehouse on Saturday, July 30th for over an hour. An old family friend is a captain for the station and he personally showed us in, and around, this neat historic building. We got to climb into engines, check out the equipment, and even hang out inside an ambulance. Hannah has decided, as a result of her conversation with "Tall Dave", the paramedic, that she wants to study medicine, too. Bethany wore a real fire helmet, and Leah learned how the blue uniform shirt firefighters wear on duty looks like it is buttoned but actually is made with snaps! Mary was content to be held, cuddled and loved. So what about Caleb? This was, after all, HIS special birthday treat.

He whined. He fussed. He simply refused to really engage in any of it. Our dear friend, Bruce, cajoled, begged, pleaded, manipulated and bribed him to take a picture with him. We had hoped Caleb would become more interested in his own fire outfit once he saw the real thing - we were wrong. We thought maybe Caleb would want to really check out the inside of the fire engines since he is so fascinated with them on the street - we were wrong. We figured he would be enthralled with a real firefighter, and want to try on his gear and helmet - once again, wrong.

He did enjoy the trip and was not scared of the firehouse. He repeated over and over again how much he liked Bruce. He would blurt out, "I like you." It was usually expertly timed right when we had all given up hope of engaging him in anything. He was fascinated by the fire gear... on Bruce. But even with the visit not following our Hollywood script we all had a really neat time. It was awesome to see how the children recognized the danger these men and women place themselves in for our benefit. I really appreciated how much "Tall Dave" explained and talked to Hannah on her level. None of the children felt slighted or patronized. All the firefighters were genuinely willing to share this passion they have for helping others with my small brood. And Christopher was able to relive a lifelong dream of going to a firehouse and checking out all the cool "stuff".

Oh, one more thing, as soon as we got home, Caleb informed us that he wants to go back! Of course.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Birthday Celebrations

We have impeccable timing in Odd. Three of our five children are born within one week of each other and Christmas (12/23, 12/27, 12/30), and the other two are separated by a mere three weeks, being born 13 months apart (6/10 and 7/26). So we tend to do group birthdays, and get the celebratin' done with a bang. Add to this Christopher's bday on 7/23 and mine of 8/15 and you can see the need for a collaborative event. So a huge BBQ was the plan a couple years back - encompassing both parents, two children, and satisfying our urge for a party for the other three, when Christmas functions make them hard to come by. But alas, our inaugural Randall BBQ was cancelled due to a plague-like sickness sweeping our entire family. Nothing like a little vomit to ruin your plans. This year was to be different. We secured the park months ago and settled in to wait for Saturday, July 22nd. But with the death of our grandmother the desire to plan, carry off, and enjoy an epic sized to-do was not in me. I cancelled the reservation, never sent invitations, and called it a year.

But we still had two little people with birthday #3 and #2 worth noticing. Not to mention my poor hubby *wink* at #34. So, we had Nana and Papa over for a dinner of fresh fish (a family favorite) and presents. What a great time! Leah received a pair of her very own dress-up shoes and a baby doll. What more could she ask for? She immediately put on her shoes, undressed the baby and strutted around like a miniature mama with attitude.

Caleb got a full fireman's outfit, complete with hat. We are taking him to the firehouse this weekend for the finale to this gift. He was SO excited about his uniform, but after getting the whole thing buckled he had a case of the jitters, and insisted we remove it immediately. He doesn't want to have anything to do with the outfit (even though he slept with the hat that first night). We will see how things change after we get to see the real engines tomorrow (along with a REAL firefighter)

Christopher received items off his wish list and some greenbacks for buying hiking paraphernalia. He showed me his purchases last night (pants, gaiters, ambient weather gauges, parkas...). He is extremely excited! And then we also surprised him a few nights later (on his actual birthday) with a cheesecake topped with blue frosting! The girls came to me several weeks before and told me they thought a blue cheesecake would be a perfect gift for Daddy. Perfect? I couldn't use a better word to describe their inspiration. Christopher LOVES cheesecake, and blue is his favorite color. What a great idea! But making the cheesecake became a challenge so store bought came to the rescue. However, I couldn't leave out the blue part. White frosting and blue food coloring worked wonders, and thanks to our friends the Proctors, and Hannah's keen memory for the food coloring, we still pulled it together. Christopher was delighted, and amazed, at the work we all put in to making this year special.

So, we have another year under our belt. I wonder what the next 365 days will bring. Stuff I can't even imagine, I am sure!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Treatski Kapoopski

We have a rather hilarious ritual in Odd of making up names, prefixes, and suffixes and sticking them onto existing words, so as to underline their meaning even more. Case in point: loves.

This handy little add-on enhances the not-so-pleasant aspect of certain duties. Example,
"Christopher, Leah has a dirty diaper and I can't get to it."
"Yuck, that's not loves."
"Sure it is, it is DDLs... dirty-diaper loves."

By making the loves into an acronym it especially points out the value of the experience. We have SLs (spank loves), TLs (tickle loves), PLs (pinch loves), DDLs (as you saw above), SULs (spit-up loves) and so on. The list is quite endless. Even the kids get into it now and we hear them say to one another, "It's okay, it was just wet-hug-loves".

Then we have, "not so much". This simple phrase can sufficiently sum up our feelings about certain activities, events or emotions without a huge explanation. Example,
"Do you like this movie?"
"Mmm, not so much."

It is best done with a slight rhythm through the phase, so as to add a cadence of underlying humor while still carrying its original intention.

Lately we have taken to adding, "-ski kapoopski" to the end of nouns for added embellishment. Example,
"I have a special treatski kapoopski for us after dinner."

We are getting some incredibly original versions of this from our children! Last night we took the kids to Dennis the Menace Park for a softball game that our dear friend Jill was playing, and to have fun in the park. Afterwards, we went to Baskin Robins for the final topper of the evening. On the way home this is what we heard,
"Thanks Mama for the treats pooky" - Bethany
"Those were great treepoopy ski" - Hannah
"I wike keepskoo keys" - Caleb
"sakoopee" - Leah
drool - Mary (but what can you expect?)

Ahh, the invigorating uses of the English language! Try a new version of our beloved vernacular today.

Monday, July 24, 2006

A World of Taste & Texture

Well, we officially introduced Mary to baby food. She has nursed up to this point and been quite content with it. In fact, she often refuses the bottle when I am out and can't get home in time for a feeding. But after her allergy testing, and results, we felt confident in opening her world to the value of taste!

We began with bananas. We won't be buying them again for some time. Besides the hilarious "raspberry" action of blowing the food off the spoon, she generally pursed her little lips closed and simply refused to eat them. If the closed-mouth version of "no" isn't quite clear enough for you she also offered us this charming rendition:

So we moved on from bananas and next tried squash. What a winner! She also likes applesauce, pears, and sweet potatoes. She eats like a champ, and happily gums the spoon while learning the swallow technique necessary for taking food from a source other than Mama. Her tongue sometimes gets in the way, and we all laugh as she tries to figure out exactly where she should put the dern thing during a bite. See Figure B:

But I think the following picture shows her agreeable nature and joy at the new found world of texture and taste (if you can use those words to describe some of the blandest, and smoothest foods in the universe). She is bulking up and no longer seems like a peanut. She has settled into two jars of baby food at dinner and still nurses four times a day. Hannah and Bethany are eager to begin feeding her themselves, and I imagine in the not-to-distant future that will become a reality. But for now I thoroughly enjoy this new adventure with my baby and am not ready to hand it off to anyone. Life is sweet.

4th of July

Our family celebrates the 4th of July! And what better way than sitting on our beach in Monterey, CA, soaking up some sun (or fog) and watching an AWESOME fireworks show right in front of you. We love it. And it is an event our children look forward to all year long. Our church gets together and marks off a large square of prime real estate early in the morning, (Christopher and our pastor, Nate, were down there before 7am) and everyone else comes when they can. I usually pull in with the kids around 11am. We eat picnic lunches, sit in folding chairs with our feet in the sand, and talk, play games, run after each others' kids and laugh heartily. We have some good discussions and sometimes even friendly debates. This year it was even more special since my family had been so consumed with the expected death of my grandmother. The lightheartedness and just plain fun were a tremendous stress-relief for myself.

But as you can imagine, spending a day at the beach doesn't just happen in our family. And since we are the family we are, I can't just have us go without making a full check-list of all the items needed to keep our family running smoothly while in the great outdoors for some 13 hours straight. So you can have some giggles at me, I have put the packing list from this year's trip below:

FOOD (ice chest)
Lunch meat, Juice boxes, Soda, Condiments (mustard, mayo), Mac Salad, Watermelon

FOOD (box)
Crackers, Cookies, Bread, Bananas, Water, Bars

Play pen, Tent, Ice chest & food box, Blankets/Towels, Personal bags (C,T,H,B,C,L), Table, Fence/yard, Porta-potty, Chairs (C&T +1Green), Umbrella, Sundry Bag, First Aid Kit, Stakes/Caution tape

3 garbage bags, Sunscreen, Camera Battery & flash card, Toilet paper, Duck bags, Head lamp, Flashlight, Walkie Talkies, Thermos of hot water, Plastic wear (plates, forks, cups), Paper Towel roll

5 big diapers/ 6 small diapers, Wipes (stocked), M’s clothing, SNS/cord/tape, Bottle, formula, Nuk

Shorts, t-shirt, Akubra, Book, Tevas, Bathing suit, Coffee thermos, Sunglasses

Sweatshirt, Jacket, Jeans, Socks, Tennies

Jeans, Long-sleeve shirt, Hooded Sweatshirt, Jacket, Panties, Socks, Tennies

Long-sleeve shirt, Jeans, Jacket, Hooded Sweatshirt, Socks, Panties, Tennies

Sweats, Long-sleeve shirt, Hooded sweat shirt, Underpants, Socks, Tennies, Jacket

Jeans, Long-sleeve onesie, Socks, Tennies, Jacket, Sweatshirt

Union Suit, Onesie, Blankie sleeper, Blanket

Now, after you have stopped laughing I will have you know that - we didn't have to walk three miles to a garbage can... dread using the public cesspool which ran out of toilet paper at noon... change wet clothing using a hybrid towel/blanket as a make-shift cover... hold a sleeping child for 2 hours for a much needed nap... take a small potty-training child to the porta-potties and stand in a ten-mile line while they wet themselves... get lost finding the First Aid tent for a small bandage... or run out of food (for us and the entire beach). I like to be prepared. I am already fine-tuning the packing list for next year's adventure!

We LOVE tradition *smile*

Friday, July 07, 2006


The obituary read:

Olive Lucile (Dean) Hyler began her life on June 12th, 1922 in Pacific Grove, CA. She passed peacefully into eternal life on July 5th, 2006 in her Pebble Beach home, surrounded by her beloved family. A recent diagnosis of pancreatic cancer tested her resolve and fortitude but even in her dying moments she met her trials with grace and courage, as she had for the previous 84 years. She lived a full and glorious life on this Monterey Peninsula and will be missed by many...

It went on to say how much she sacrificed for her friends and family; the time and effort she put into making people feel special through her cooking and knitting. It talked about her achievements as members of prominent organizations within our community and how much she enjoyed her recreational activities. It listed a full page of family members she left behind, each with their own story of how this magnificent woman touched their lives. But this is my story. And I simply called this triumph of the human spirit, Granny.

I remember the clink of ice in her heavy crystal glass as she sipped a Johnny Walker Red label, over with a twist and fixed whatever creation we would later drool over at the dinner table. She had a purpose in her movement and didn't fret in the kitchen like some women are prone to. She knew what she was doing in every sense of that phrase. She carried a confidence about her as she stirred steaming sauces and poked roasting meats. I loved to watch her cook. I would stand at her counter and gaze in wonder at how well she orchestrated each meal. Sometimes she would ask me to help, and even the simplest job (mashing potatoes) carried a significance that made me want to do my very best. I wanted her approval.

She taught me to crochet when I was small and I showed her my meager work often for praise and critique. She always had a graciousness about her when she was looking over my shoulder. I never felt condemned or ridiculed, even when she unravelled 2 rows of stitches to get back to a problem needing fixin'. I think the paragon standards she held herself to showed me that excellence is worth the trouble. And I could hear her mutter, "Oh fiddle" when she located a botch in her own work. She humbly pointed it out to me so I could see what she had done wrong and then watched her unravel several rows of her own work. It taught me that I can't expect people to push any further than the expectations I set for myself.

Granny loved to shop! I can see clearly the many trips to San Juan Bautista for a particularly fun garage sale cum antique bazaar that transformed the whole town. We ate Mexican in one of her favorite restaurants and shopped for treasures and junk alike. Whatever she deemed "garbage" was - and whatever was seen as "invaluable" immediately received the same judgement from me. I loved just being around her.

Now, this is not to say that she didn't anger me at times because she certainly did. There were health issues that began percolating in the early 90's and carried through until her death. She became caught up in always answering the question, "How are you," with a slight sigh that could wear on the nerves. Her concerns for money matters were irritating at times and the way she and my grandfather played on each other's triggers ranged from comical to downright maddening. There are some things I learned from Granny by reverse, seeing the fruition of patterns and decisions I don't want played out in my own life. But they are far and few between the good character of a woman who loved her family dearly.

I have a few trinkets that I will treasure from her. Just recently Christopher and I were praying about getting a large dinner table to fit our increasing family's needs. A nice wood 10-seater is no small amount of pocket change. My mom and Granny talked about the possibility of trading my current table (which was my grandparent's also) with theirs. Only a couple of weeks before she passed away I got the word that I could have the solid oak rectangle table that seats 10... easily. The memories I have of sitting at that table and eating her food are precious and now she has given me the opportunity to see them every day in my own home. That was just her way.

Other family members have other stories to tell about her, and they are all beautiful pictures in their own right. Mine is special to me and includes our conversations, drives, holidays and such. I am so blessed to have the heritage of a woman who loved her family and sacrificed for them. It doesn't change the fact that I miss her dearly.

Exodus 20:12 Honor your father and your mother, so that you may live long in the land the LORD your God is giving you.

Friday, June 30, 2006


I married a wonderful man. He has a delightful sense of humor, an awesome commitment to Christ and a passion for his family. I continually wonder at the grace of God to allow me such a husband as this. There is only one thing... he brought into our family and the lives of our children, allergies. I say this tongue in cheek, because of course I would marry him all over again! However, allergies are hereditary and our children inherited them. It is part of the lifestyle here in Odd.

Hannah was born with dry skin. The pediatrician told us to use a "good moisturizer" on her, like Vaseline Intensive Care. Little did we know that many lotions, this one included, use eggs to help emulsify their products. Hannah is allergic to eggs. We battled eczema, hives, vomiting and upset tummies with no knowledge of what was really going on. By 9mos we knew something needed to be addressed. We saw a dermatologist who recommended a "good moisturizer" and said she had eczema but there was nothing he could really do about it. Finally, at about 16mos I heard about an allergist - I didn't even know there were specialized doctors for allergies! - and I insisted to my pediatrician that we receive a referral. It was the beginning of a new life for us!

Finally the reactions, skin issues and seemingly inter-related symptoms were being validated. Hannah was given a scratch test of 50 common allergens and responded positively to nearly 1/3 of them. The nurse commented that she had never seen a more reactive 16mos old. We discovered she was highly allergic to eggs (both yolk and white), peanuts, all tree nuts, legumes like soybeans, green beans, pinto beans and so on, apples (the basis for most juices), lamb, cats, dogs, dust mites, tree pollen and corn. We were shocked! Hannah went on 3 types of topical steroids to control the eczema flare-ups and an oral allergen suppressant called Zyrtec. We started using an ointment called Aquaphor (the consistency of petroleum jelly), head to toe each evening after her bath. And our life of diligence towards ingredients and food began.

Bethany was born 2 years after Hannah and while she showed minor signs of allergies she did not have the strong reactions like her big sister. We were hopeful that Hannah might be the only Randall to inherit this irritant. Bethany is allergic to egg whites and strawberries, some pollens and cat but overall she has been free of most issues. What a blessing!

Caleb was born 2 1/2 years later and we saw instantly that he resembled his biggest sister (we have now coined them Type A and Type B). Type A's are smaller at birth, look the same and have allergies. Type B's are bigger, also look similar and do not have the allergy issues as badly. Caleb was an A. Because we already knew how to manage the skin issues we used Hannah's medications and treatments to control flare-ups and generally make him as comfortable as possibler during reactions. But when he turned 5mos he went from an easy-going contented little boy to a nightmare, especially at night. Some nights it took 2 hours before he would finally fall asleep, and the whole time he would be crying. I would rock and rock and rock but when I set him down he would start back again until, exhausted, he would allow me transfer him to his crib. We could not think of what was causing this change. He didn't like whole foods and did not really start solids until he was nearly 1yr old. We took him to see our allergist when he was 13mos and decided we should scratch test him now. We were shocked to learn that he was NOT allergic to eggs (we had basically become an egg-free home and assumed it would be a high allergen for all our reactive children) but instead discovered a high reaction to dairy and potatoes, along with animals, molds and pollens. Dairy. Dairy! The poor boy practically lived on the stuff. We switched him to rice milk and within a week our happy boy was back! We started him on Zyrtec as well and using the continued skin treatments along with severe dairy restrictions we are able to control many potential outbreaks.

When Leah arrived only a year later we were very happy to see a healthy Type B peek out at us. While she has some allergens she falls into the category with Bethany of easy management. We thanked God again that he saw fit to give us a break from the high maintenance of child allergies.

Mary came 17mos later and wouldn't you know it - Type A... all the way. She weighed within a few ounces of her older Type A siblings and was the same length. Most people immediately pick up on the physical resemblance, with Caleb especially. And she has dry skin that irritates her often. This time I realized we might skip the sleepless nights and have her tested early, so just a week ago (a few days shy of 6mos) we scratch tested her.

The scratch test involves a rubber ink stamp marking the whole of your back with 50 different numbered squares. Then the nurse places a single drop of liquid containing the allergic essence of a common reactant into each square - 50 different unique possibilities. After each square has their drop she takes a special needle and scratches off the top layer of skin under each drop to allow the liquid to react with the patient's broken skin, assuring the strongest possible reaction with the best chance of clear negative and positive results. Mary, not to be outdone by older siblings, was the most reactive 6mos old this particular nurse had ever tested... she has been doing this for 30 years.

So, we found out that cats, dogs and parakeet feathers are high reactants (so much for my dream of owning a dog - I told Christopher that there better be a dog with a bow around its neck waiting for me the day we finally move our last child out, I don't care how many years it takes). Mary is also highly allergic to eggs, carrots and oats. While the results can be saddening (no Cheerios) they are also incredibly beneficial. Maybe we can avoid some of the pitfalls we had with the other children because we won't even begin to expose her to these foods. I have to make adjustments in my eating because of my breast milk but it is a small price to pay. Besides, we all have our cross to bear. But I am looking forward to a Type B next time *wink*.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Imelda Marcos Eat Your Heart Out

Imelda Marcos is known (or rather notorious) for her shoe fetish. When opposing forces searched her Filipino home in 1986 and found a reported 3000 pairs of shoes (many never even worn) she defended herself with this, "I did not have three thousand pairs of shoes, I had one thousand and sixty." Um, yea. Anyway... Imelda has competition in the form of 23 month old Leah Caitrin aka The Shoe Stealer.

If she could, Leah would have been born wearing shoes. Seriously. Ever since she could crawl she has been fascinated by shoes. Mostly her older siblings' shoes. Occasionally her own. Definitely her Mama's and Daddy's. She will drop anything to put on an empty pair of shoes. She could be called the Shoe Whisperer. They call to her in their own private language. She recognizes their need and understands how to fill it. After all, what is a shoe good for if it is not being worn? Poor, lonely, tired out shoe with no one to love it. Pathetic picture isn't it? Not on my daughter's watch!

Now God, in his mighty intelligence, designed Leah's feet to work perfectly with her particular quirks. She has chubby landing boards for feet. No dainty, small boned, slight lady's appendage here. Nope. Leah has hefty ankles with wide, thick blossoms on the bottom of each leg. She can put on her Daddy's work boots and clunk around for an hour without breaking a sweat. Her feet make her particularly suited for the task of wearing shoes made for people 15 times her age.

So you might think, with all this shoe lovin' going on, that Leah has several pairs of her own shoes... you would think that - but you would be mistaken. Leah has a pair of tennis shoes which she will occasionally keep on (but only if you place military grade magnets on the bottom of the shoes and then land Leah on the planet Jupiter). She owns a pair of sweet Mary-Janes for church but we have yet to see her wear them there. Recently we purchased a pair of stars and stripes "crocks" which she does enjoy putting on and off but as soon as a larger pair of anything is available they are left in the dust. Apparently her giftedness as the Shoe Whisperer only works with the larger sizes.

She wears our company's shoes, her Nana's shoes or even a stranger's shoes. High-heeled, open-toed, lace-up, slip-on and buckled all receive equal opportunity with her. It is great to see such an open heart in a child so young. She hasn't been tainted by society and the laws of etiquette - white shoes when? I don't think Leah even finds it particularly important to wear a matching set of shoes and putting them on the correct feet is a total mystery to her. But her zeal makes up for it all! Any time you want to watch a fashion shoe - I mean show, to rival Prada stop on by.

Friday, June 16, 2006


It's that time of year again and graduates are graduating... We are going to my cousin's graduation from Carmel High this evening. The small towns in our area are one by one serving up Alma Mater heraldry to mark their students out for future success. We are not an official part of this process because we homeschool. But that didn't stop us from participating in our own Advancement Ceremony last Friday evening. It was beautiful.

My family is actively involved in a special support group specifically for the homeschool family. We call ourselves the Monterey Bay Christian Homeschool Group, or MBCHS. It gives me an opportunity to involve my kids with other like-minded Christians in activities and education. We meet together a few times a month for play groups at the park, and once a month we have a meeting set aside for parents only where topics of relevance are discussed. I really enjoy it. So do my kids!

The Advancement Ceremony is the biggest production our humble group presents. Unlike public or even private schools our numbers are so small that we can really make the event personal. We began the evening with a dinner and opportunity to socialize with other participating families. There were about 25 families, all with varying aged children in differing grades. It is great to have this multi-generational contact for my children. I appreciate that Hannah and Bethany have friends from several age brackets, and since they are not pigeon-holed into a specific grade they are much freer to act according to their personal desires and not the "peer group" mentality of the age.

After dinner the primary program began and each child was given an invitation to present something of their choice to the families. Hannah and Bethany sang When You Believe (including the Hebrew stanza) from the movie Prince of Egypt. It was such a safe environment. Here, in front of families and children they know and care about there was no stage fright or fear of ridicule. They sang their little hearts out and received thunderous applause (as did every other student participating!). It took an hour for the children to each address their turn and we were delighted with renditions of Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to words from our founding fathers. Then the certificates were awarded.

This is my favorite part! You see I have complete control over my homeschool and what grade/mark of achievement my child earns. I don't have to worry about whether they finished all the "right" workbooks before the cut off date. I am free to acknowledge the work and success they made, individually, this past year. I chose to have their certificates acknowledge the completion of the school year rather than the completion of a grade. In future years I might choose differently - it's up to me though! So Hannah and Bethany both received their certificate with a place for Teacher and Principle (myself and Christopher) to sign. The girls were so proud!

I love homeschool. I love the flexibility and control it offers me. I love the way my children are taught as individuals and not as a group. I enjoy the complete understanding I have of their academic strengths and weaknesses... no parent-teacher conferences for me! Mostly I am at peace knowing I am providing the best environment for my children to learn and grow safely. I certainly can not protect them from everything. I don't want to! There are lessons they will learn in hard mistakes throughout their life. But I can keep them from being teased viciously, bullied unmercifully, or even idolized inappropriately. These social wounds have no "value" in teaching small kids about "real life". I don't intend to put my children through them.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Mary Mooooo

We call her Mary-Moo, Pumpkin-Poo, Poopity-Do as a "nickname". We have called her this ever since the beginning. "Why," you might ask? I have NO idea. She was born the smallest of all our children (7lbs, 12oz) and has been the easiest as well. In fact she only recently started to cry, preferring, up until now, to mew like a kitten. Even her cry is sweet. But Mary Moo it was and Mary Moo it is. So we thought it appropoe to introduce her to Cow. It was a match made in heaven.

Let me first give you some background on Cow. We purchased a toy with hanging dealy-ma-bobs for Hannah in early 1999. We called the toy the Bat-At because you put the child on their back underneath this canopy of hanging dealy-ma-bobs and they could "bat at" them with hands and feet. Hannah immediately enjoyed the game and spent hours contentedly entertaining her parents with her dexterity. Cow was one of the dealy-ma-bobs. Hannah grew especially found of Cow and finally we removed Cow from the Bat-At and allowed her to play with it alone. She was THRILLED. She would shake all over when Cow was in sight and if Cow was in her little hands he immediately went into her mouth. We knew we had to save him for future children.

Bethany was introduced to Cow in early 2001 using the Bat-At once again. However she preferred to sit in her Johnny-Jumper so we attached Cow with toy rings to the cords and allowed her to gum the loyal toy to her heart's content. Cow is made from a polyester material with a light stuffing, similar to what a cloth book would feel like. He has the perfect combination of size, weight and shape combined with color/pattern to make him an instant success. Small children can get any part of Cow into their mouths without hurting themselves and slightly older children can choose certain aspects of him (tag, loop, nose) to chew. I have no idea how many times Cow has been washed.

Caleb received Cow when he was about 4mos old in late 2003. He was still in great shape and Caleb immediately took to the polka-dots on the back side of Cow. He would be mesmerized by them for upwards of 30 minutes and then suddenly, with a start, try to stuff all of the poor bovine into his mouth at once! We tenderly packed Cow away when Caleb grew to old but realized we had this toy that seemed a hit with all our children and began to wonder if he would indeed make an appearance for every one.

Leah came so quickly after Caleb that Cow was barely packed before we took him back out again. We got a new Bat-At for Leah, the old one taking on the look of an old bag lady with missing front teeth. The newer version was improved, over-engineered with bright fabrics, rattles and squeakers in random places, removable mirrors and its own set of dealy-ma-bobs to boot. We tried to use the accessories it came with but Leah was not altogether impressed like her older siblings had been with their Bat-At. Something about Cow was simple, black and white with high contrast and not a lot of "noise". Maybe a reflection of a bygone era *wink*. We pulled one of the new fangled dealy-ma-bobs off and replaced it with our beloved Cow. He was a hit. Leah cooed and smiled and chewed her friend for months.

And now Mary. Mary Moo even. I got Cow out of the basket of newbornish toys a few weeks ago and introduced the two. Mary loves him. She literally goes into a full-body smile at the sight of Cow. She shakes with joy and exuberance and when she can get him in her mouth - bliss!

Cow loves it too. He has come to find a great deal of love in this family with their small children. Each new person needs him in a slightly different but no less important way. He doesn't mind the time passed in a box because he knows that there will be another little person soon who needs his special touch. He is content. And that's all that matters.

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Wisdom from Experience

Christopher and I took the kids to a treat for dinner tonight. We have a favorite hamburger joint in Salinas called, Margie's (it has great eats!). In order to get there we must drive over the Salinas River, as you see to the right. We drive over this river almost every time we go into Salinas. We discuss the name of this river, its headwaters and final dump into the ocean often. Our girls are very familiar with this river. So this conversation is what we heard from our 7-yr old and 5-yr old tonight.

"I see the river Hannah!" Bethany is generally easily excited and gets giddy at noticing the waters rushing below the bridge.

"Yea, I know. I see it to," Hannah plays bored.

"Oh look, there is an island in the middle of it. I wish I could be a fairy and live on the island." Bethany is already imagining all the creatures she would make-believe lived on this island, and how many children each one would have.

"What would it be called?" Out of sheer curiosity Hannah must ask. Usually she finds some minor fault with Bethany's plan and will tell her so.

"What the island? Hmmm... Bethany's Island, maybe. (pause) I just love the Jordan River."

"That isn't the Jordan River!" Hannah is in absolute disgust that her sister would get this wrong.

"It isn't? I thought it was..."

"No Bethany! The Jordan River is in Israel. We aren't in Israel. We live in California."


"No, that is the Sacramento River." And with that final piece of absolute knowledge Hannah ended the conversation.

PS - Hannah also knows that a mile is "2000 feet long" and was once again shocked that her sister did not know such elementary facts.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Pepe le Pew

Christopher takes the kitchen trash out each night. So, at about 10pm he rounded up the garbage, replaced the bag and headed out the door. A few moments later he returned, somewhat shell-shocked and staring oddly at me.

"There was a skunk at our garbage bin! He was sitting right there when I went to throw the bag away. (long pause) He sprayed..."

"He sprayed!? Did he spray you?"

"I don't know. I don't think so. Can you smell me?"

"Hmmm... no. Wait a minute. Oh golly, you did get sprayed!! Go upstairs and jump in the shower right away!"

I followed Christopher upstairs to retrieve his clothing using methods employed by nuclear testing facilities. Christopher scrubbed so vigorously it would have put Silkwood to shame. All in all we scraped by relatively free from disaster. The clothes came out fine. And after a day of open windows and highly sophisticated means of odor removal (read frufy candles) our house is home only to the toxic smells produced by little children.

But it did get me thinking. What if people could spray their "scent" so potently you could smell it and never wonder, "Was Bob here?" You would just know. You know? And then I thought even harder (this is where it started to hurt). We do leave our mark, and we leave it so profoundly that anyone walking by can immediately notice it. We all know people that are a joy to be around. Like fresh baked bread they just smell wonderful. No one could refuse their sweetness and gentle spirit. I know of a dear woman, Sharon Jackson, that has this down. She even has churned butter! The real thing too.

And we can all think of the person that smells like spoiled milk, the kind that has lumps from sitting outside in a sippy cup for three days. Or the back-of-the-refrigerator-leftovers that have become more closely related to extra terrestrial life forms than Chinese take out. Yep, these people leave you gagging from their sour spirits, frustrated lives and inevitable issues they seem so prone towards.

From musky cologne to mothballs we all have a scent we leave - like skunks. God genetically allowed the skunk to stink. It isn't his fault. But God didn't design us to stink. In Genesis 8:21 God says the sacrifice of Noah is a pleasing aroma. What sacrifice? For Noah it would have been burnt offerings. But in Hebrews 13:15 the New Covenant tells us what will make our pleasing aroma. It reads, Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. I hope you are encouraged to acknowledge Christ with your lips today. Besides eternal salvation... it makes you smell good!

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Adventures in Astrophysics

Okay, so we already talked a bit about our trip to the Aquarium. What was NOT mentioned was a small side-trip we made to the American Tin Cannery. See, we got to our parking spot, and I was woefully under-prepared for the amount of change that the parking meter would require, so we needed to make a small jaunt to the nearest ATM and change machines.

Too bad ATM machines can't dispense $2.00 in quarters. All I needed was $2.00 in quarters, and instead I got a $20.00 bill with a $2.00 charge for the ATM! I wonder how many people parking on the streets outside the aquarium are doing the same thing I am!

So there I am, with a $20.00 bill in hand, and no quarters. What to do? Look for the nearest "junk" retailer to spend as little as I can to break my $20.00 into smaller bills. Otherwise I'm stuck with $20 in quarters. No thanks!

We wander a bit, up and down the escalators, and spend a few minutes in the coin-operated kiddie ride area. Then I spot the place, Windborne Kites. Lots of cheap stuff, and lots of really fun kite-related stuff. We spend about 10 minutes looking for fun and cheap stuff, and then I spot the perfect item: the Arrowcopter. This $5.00 item is the answer to my trouble, and with tax, gives me four $1.00 bills, SCORE! The claims of the Arrowcopter were too much to resist: flights of upwards of 300 feet in the air, with some reports of MINUTES for the aircraft to land back to earth. My curiousity (and desire to expedite our planned trip to the aquarium) got the better of me, and I bought it right away, not really expecting much performance out of it.

Back to the car, stocking the parking meter accordingly, I stuffed the Arrowcopter into the car to lighten the load into the aquarium. The girls were pestering me the whole time back to the car about when we were going to go out and try it out. I promised them we'd go out after dinner and try it out...

So, we had dinner, and it was time to take the new toy out for a spin. I loaded up Hannah, Bethany and Caleb, and we drove over to nearby Schoonover Park, with vast open spaces ideally suited for our "adventure".

We go out into the middle of the field, and I find myself a good spot for the first shot. Throw a few blades of grass into the air to determine the wind direction, and then give her a good launch. Up, up, up she goes, and catches the breeze, and soars some 100 yards across the field, nearly catching in a tree on the other side. I had no idea it would float so much in the wind!

Then each of the kids take turns with it. Even Caleb gets in on the action, and has a blast. In fact, after a small mishap where the toy smacked his little finger and cut him a bit, he turns out to be somewhat of a natural at it, launching it some 100 feet in the air on his second try!

Hannah and Bethany have a blast chasing it down while still in-flight and doing their darnedest to catch it mid-flight. Hannah is just a bit more coordinated, so has a bit more success.

We had a blast the twenty minutes we were out. And for the help it provided in giving us a great parking spot for the aquarium, I say it was one of the best $5.00 toys I've every purchased!

Aquarium Fun

Daddy took us to the Monterey Bay Aquarium yesterday for some fun! We have all written a bit about our trip...

Princess Hannah
I liked the Aquarium a lot! I wish I could go there every day. We went to the sharks and saw a sun fish. And only one hammerhead shark, once, on the very bottom. But we were on the balcony so we couldn't see it very well. If I went there every day I would have nothing else to do.

Princess Bethany
We went to Flukes, Flippers and Fun and we got a stamp to see a manta ray on our hand. And we had so much fun that I could just scream out loud. Because I had so much fun. We saw sharks and we also went to Splash Zone. We played in water at Splash Zone and also we played on the slide and with the costumes. And I also want to say, "Thank you Mama for typing this."

Prince Caleb
I like the water! I liked the sharks and how they go around. I liked to make the sharks go around in the water and make the water go and get wet. I got wet in the water and playing hard with the sharks!

Friday, May 26, 2006


Do you have a boy? There is something about boys. I don't even think it is fair to say that a boy is simply the opposite gender as a girl. Girl evokes sweet and tender, maybe a bit whiny or emotional, but generally stable. Boy... well, boy is more than dirt and cars; it is not only smells and wrestling and baseball; boy is tomato.

"What do you mean," you ask? This morning my daughter, Bethany was helping my three-year old son, Caleb get breakfast. He didn't want to be sitting where she put him so after telling her this he says, rather gruffly and in his I'm a man voice, "Tomato."

Tomato. That was all. Just that one word. Slippery little fellow. How do you discipline for saying the name of a vegetable? I am delighted he even knows one! This is what I mean by boy. A girl would never think to call a sibling an apple. It would never cross her mind to use rutabaga as a thinly veiled substitute for meanie. Not so with a boy.

So Bethany comes to me and complains that her brother is calling her names again. "What names", I ask. "Tomato", she replies. I barely held in my laughter. Point #2 about these boys - they have comedic timing from birth. A few days ago Caleb was getting into something he shouldn't be and I called to him in the backyard. "Caleb, stop that or you will need to come inside." He doesn't stop. "Caleb! Stop that right now." He stops and then runs into the house and gives me, what has been coined in my home, the Bill Hyler smile. Who is Bill Hyler? My 86-year old grandfather. They share a caught me with my hand in the cookie jar I will just amuse you with my smile so you can't really get mad at me look. My husband has it too and he isn't even related by blood! It is still the same thing. Because they are all boys. Doesn't matter how old they are because boyness transcends age and goes way further than even the Masons. It is the reason all men can snicker at the smell of their own fart.

Boy. Tomato. I am allergic to one but still eat it because I love the taste. Maybe that can be applied to other as well...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Laundry (and other irrefutable laws, like gravity)

I use 20 lbs of laundry detergent in 9 weeks. In an average week I wash 4 loads of whites, 3 loads of brights, 3 loads of darks, 2 loads of towels, 2 loads of sheets and a load of delicates. I run the dishwasher every single night and usually have a small load of handwashables as well. We drink nearly 8 gallons of milk a week, use a loaf of bread in 3 days and can polish off a box of cereal in one sitting if Christopher is eating with us. We drive a 12-passenger van, own two baby swings, two cribs, a cradle, bunk-bed, moses basket and two play-pens. I have 5 children, 7 and under. We are Odd.

My goal in life is to get all my chores done in as little time as possible while adequately training my children to eventually take the task over entirely. I have so far brainwashed them into putting dishes away correctly, managing their own toys and putting folded laundry in the right drawers. My text book is Confessions of an Organized Homemaker which literally saved me from a mountain of unnecessary work. The key to success you might ask...

Bins. Containers. Boxes. Baskets. Holders. I actively work to give everything a home. A labelled home. A labelled home that contains all the pieces, accoutrement, parts, piles and stuff that accumulates in a home of seven. I have baskets for burpies (thereby freeing me to cease folding them neatly), and sleepers. Containers contain toys and toys and more toys. An 18-month old can put toys away when it is just dropping it in the box, instead of lining it up neatly on a shelf. Labelled dresser drawers tell the older girls which one houses what so they can efficiently help with putting clean laundry away. And labelled laundry hampers (this was just recently discovered, and as you can see I am not quite done with the Michelangelo-esque cave paintings) help older children who read place their dirty clothes in the right bin while little ones can follow the pictogram for the same effect.

I now get giddy at the sight of storage aisles and container stores. The smell of plastic can be intoxicating to me! Sometimes I think I have gone nuts. I have too many bins and I am making WAY too big of a deal out of this. And I am sure I would live just fine without all my boxes. But then I appreciate anew the convenience of this system when we need to get the next set of clothes down for Leah and wouldn't you know it - the 2t are clearly marked in a see-through bin sitting in my garage. I love it.

I have so much still to learn about managing a large household. I find it ironic on a regular basis that I grew up in a house of two, including my mom! We practically had our own wings of the house. And now here I am trying to squeeze every ounce of function out of my home and wondering, already, where we will put the next baby. Wild.

So if you have tips, suggestions or patented organizational techniques please pass them my way. Along with your prayers they are one of the things I need the most!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006


"Waaaaaaaaa - MAMA, I have a boo-boo!" You can only imagine how often I hear those words spoken in a house of five children, four of whom are walking and thereby capable of falling. Each of my children addresses pain differently but they all like to get their boo-boos kissed. What is it about a kiss which sets to right all the world?

Leah likes to hear herself cry. She falls and immediately begins to pout, then cry and finally screech. She likes to be kissed and then kissed again and finally kissed yet one more time. The whole while she snuggles in my arms, sucking her thumb. When she is done she pushes off of me and runs away, quite independently! She will be back...

Caleb shows anyone interested in looking (or anyone near enough) his blood - even if the blood is in his mind alone. He falls, starts to cry and between sobs comes running to tell me about the blood surely pouring down his leg, face, arm, etc. Once he determines that the blood has sufficiently been noted by any audience he can gain he insists upon kisses. "Kiss my boo-boo please, Mama. Kiss it right here!" Once the kiss is delivered he RUNS off with a smile and skip, right back into trouble.

Bethany dramatizes every scratch, scrape or rub. Upon falling she barely controls herself long enough to sob out the words, "oowwww." Flinching and crying she hardly tolerates any cleansing or bandaging of the wound. We have learned to settle her by telling her what we are doing but deny her the absolute truth of it. If she doesn't know what is happening she is ten times better off. I kiss the bandaged boo-boo and watch her limp off to continue to mourn the discomfort for the next several hours.

Hannah has grown up and I miss her already. She clings stoically to control when she gets hurt, preferring to hold back the tears and work to show herself mature. No more kisses to relieve her pain. She sits still for me and barely flinches when I need to treat tender cuts. She has no idea how sweet it was when I could kiss her little fingers and hug away the ouch.

I adore having children. I adore having many children. One of the reasons is to kiss boo-boos. I am not ready to give up the magic of it all. And sometimes even Hannah lets me use that wonderful magic on her. Someday she will recognize the power of it.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Sweet Sorrow

My maternal grandmother, Olive, has been diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Because of her age and existing health conditions the treatment options are limited. My grandparents and their children have made the decision to pursue treatments to help guarantee a quality of life but not put her in any more discomfort for the sake of time. We are not sure how quickly the cancer will progress.

My children are very attached to their grandparents. My eldest daughter is named Hannah Olive after my grandmother. We live very close to Granny and Papa and spend holidays, special dinners and just afternoons in their company. This has provided an incredibly rich heritage and multi-generational paradigm for my children. A few days ago it was decided that they needed to have a better explanation of what is happening to their "Who-Who" and how this will ultimately effect them.

It was sweet to see their immediate concern for Who-Who and her comfort. Hannah especially wanted to understand how this cancer "got in" and whether Papa could catch it. She felt much better when we told her we would look in her body atlas book and learn more about cancer and how it works in the body. She was information driven and her need to process what the pancreas is, what a tumor looks like, how cancer comes to be all drove her ability to understand and handle the news. Bethany is our emotionally connected child and she wanted to know whether Who-Who had pain. Did it hurt? Could Bethany still hug Who-Who the next time we saw her? Maybe Who-Who would feel better if she brought her some flowers when we went over. It brought tears of joy to my eyes to see the connection they have with this wealth of experience and wisdom.

Later that evening however, the sorrow also hit and I held my little girls while they cried. Bethany is very sad that she will lose her Who-Who. Her concept of time is still childish so she became caught up in needing us to go over to Who-Who's house immediately. Hannah became withdrawn and quiet, feeling sad but not sure how to fully express it. She said over and over again that she would pray that Who-Who gets better and that Papa doesn't get sick.

We are beginning the journey of grief and loss in our children's little world. It makes us sad that we have to address this at all. Humans are designed, by God, to live eternally. Adam and Eve were never supposed to experience death and neither are we, so many generations later. Yet here we are, crying together over the knowledge that our beloved grandmother and great-grandmother does in fact have a limited life... on this earth. The blessing I can give my children is knowing that my grandmother trusts upon Jesus for her salvation. She is going to live beyond this death. "Parting is such sweet sorrow", for with the sadness of our goodbyes comes the anticipated joy of our reunion.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The Toad

Leah is a Toad. But she is OUR Toad. She really shouldn't even "be". God knew we needed her, and worked extra hard to insure we got her.

Caleb was only 4 months old, and nursing, so I didn't even realize I was pregnant. Very soon afterwards I developed a complication called placenta previa, and had early difficulties as a result. Not knowing I was pregnant meant I did not manage some of these complications very well! On Valentine's Day Christopher simply stated I was pregnant. Mind you, Caleb was now 8 months old, and I was ready for another baby. But something seemed to be happening to keep us from getting pregnant. I was discouraged, and thought the idea that I was already pregnant ludicrous. It took me two more days before I bought a test. I think I just waved it over my belly, and it began blinking, in neon letters, and saying in an audible voice, "Yes, you are pregnant!". Great! I couldn't figure out when this all happened but one thing I have learned in Odd, when the test says you are pregnant - you are pregnant. I called my doctor, and made an appointment for a few weeks later (we all assumed I was about 6 weeks along).

Christopher and I were married on March 1, 1997. In 2004 we decided to spend our anniversary going to dinner, and a movie. We picked Cheaper by the Dozen. No joke. And while watching this movie version of Odd it happened - I felt movement! That can't be, I am only 7 or 8 weeks along... In actuality, we discovered a few days later, I was 19.5 weeks pregnant! Nearly half way done.

Once we had the correct due date I went on a rampage to find a doctor, and hospital that would give me the kind of delivery options I longed for. After several doctors, and a final decision to leave the Monterey County for Santa Cruz County facilities, I found my "soulmate" in obstetrics. She was willing to allow me to have a natural birth, free from intervention, and fuss. She was willing to let me gestate as long as my body needed. She was willing to sit back, and allow God, and my body do what they were designed to do. But God had other plans, and those little complications I mentioned earlier turned into big complications at about 32 weeks.

I was in my routine ultrasound with my OB when she puzzled at the screen. "This seems odd," she mused. Together we started fitting pieces of a huge puzzle together that ultimately showed us I had complete placenta previa, with little to no chance of change, and my dream delivery was out the window, being replaced with a planned cesarean. We agreed that she would allow me to go to 39 weeks (a mere week short from "full-term"), and things were set. But things weren't really "set". As the days progressed we discovered I might have other complications which could ultimately lead to the loss of my uterus, my life or my baby's life. This devastated me. The idea of never being able to bear more children was a grief I could hardly fathom. And on the flip side Christopher was coming to terms with the possibility of losing his wife or child. It was an incredibly emotional, and faith-building time. But in it all we never wavered that this little child was somehow meant specifically for us.

On the morning of my planned cesarean date I woke up at 4am to use the potty (or rather my bladder decided to wake me up because it had 12 drops it HAD to void before another minute passed). As I crawled back into bed for my last hour of sleep I felt an odd sensation, and realized I was hemorrhaging blood. Uncontrollably. We called 911, and I was rushed to our local hospital for an emergency cesarean. No one was allowed in the delivery room, and I was put under general anesthesia. It was the epitome of what I fought so hard against in my decisions for facilities, and doctors. The irony was not lost on me as I slipped in and out of coherent consciousness.

Leah was born on July 26th, 2004 at 6:11am. She weighed 9lbs, 11 ounces, and was 22.5 inches long! She lost some blood during my hemorrhage but both of us were able to slide by without a transfusion, and in incredibly good health considering all my blood loss.

And so as I watched her playing at Park Day yesterday, with the other homeschooled children running around her, I laughed to myself. She has SO much personality. She is my most tempestuous child. But she melts my heart every day.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mary, Too

Not to be outdone, Mary needed to make a showing tonight. Isn't she just adorable? Hannah and Bethany spent a couple minutes making silly faces while I had the camera out, and Mary (almost 5 months) cooperated obligingly!

Daddy Day Care

Trisha is out at her monthly crop tonight, so I'm at home alone with the kids. Now I have my chance to exact my evil plan, and am methodically training the kids to be weird like "old weird Dad"! You are looking (from left-to-right) at Hannah (7.5 yrs), Bethany (5.5 yrs), Caleb (almost 3 yrs), Leah (almost 2 yrs).

While Mary was upstairs taking a much-needed nap, I pulled out the camera and snapped a few photos. Even Hannah and Bethany got into the action and snapped a few. It was lots of fun. They're watching Larry Boy right now. All is right in the world.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Reminiscing about Kauai

Many years ago, while I was single and in college, I had the unique opportunity to travel to Hawaii for a backpacking trip. And not tourist-trap Waikiki either, real honest-to-goodness Hawaii....KAUAI! I spent two weeks in the Hawaiian Islands, with eight of those days in Kauai. The first three days were spent hiking the amazing Kalalau Trail, an eleven-mile trail that covers the only roadless section on the perimeter of the island. Crossing the famed Na Pali coast, a very rugged section of Hawaiian wilderness, it is a very ethereal experience. We spent another five days "living" on Kalalau Beach once we arrived. The island of Kauai contains in its upper ramparts, the wettest spot on earth, Mount Waialeale. Because of this fact, the entire island is covered with the lushest blanket of green you ever saw, and the Kalalau Trail crosses many creeks and streams and gazes upon the steep canyons and valleys carved by the enormous runoff from Waialeale. It really is a beautiful sight!

So why, some ten years later, am I writing about my trip to Kauai? Well, in a nutshell, it was the turning point in my life. I hope to recount my visit to Kauai in hope of providing some insight to the amazing way that God works...

For those of you who don't already know, I'm involved in a recreational pursuit called County Highpointing. I try to get to the top of every county I can. Right now, I'm collecting California county highpoints. There are 58 counties in California, with a total of 56 highpoints; two of the highpoints can be claimed for two counties since the peak sits right on the county line. I've completed 17 of these 56 highpoints, and plan to have four more done before the summer is finished. There are some amazing spiritual lessons I've learned from climbing, from good effort and the joy of victory over challenging circumstances. My highpoint trips are always spiritually refreshing. My trip to Kauai was paramount in that regard...

The County Highpointing community, as a whole, is trying to complete the entire collection of county highpoints, with there currently being a total of 3,142 county highpoints in the United States. When all the county highpoints in a given state have been surmounted, that state is said to have been "completed". California was completed many years ago (in 1992-1993), and the process chronicled in a wonderful book I enjoy immensely, California County Summits by Gary Suttle. Until recently, the state of Hawaii has been an uncompleted state, the highpoint of Kauai County being a rather troublesome spot. The highpoint of Kauai County is a mountain called Kawaikini, and sits a mere mile from Mount Waialeale, along the same ridge high above the Alakai Swamp, an almost impassible tropical rainforest that separates Kawaikini from the nearest trailhead.

First Attempt, May 2005
SUCCESS! February 2006
Bob Burd's dayhike attempt, April 2006

As I watched the pursuits chronicled in the links listed above, it made me think back to my visit to tamer territory in Kauai County, yet no less dramatic from my perspective...

I arrived in Kauai on New Years Day, 1995. It was winter break from college, and we had six weeks off from school. I flew with my roommate and some friends of his. We changed planes in Honolulu, and then flew into the (now private) Princeville Airport on the north coast of Kauai, right next to Hanalei Bay. The Princeville Resort is the major draw to this northern part of the island, and must have been the main reason to have an airport in Princeville. Maybe since 1995, they've realized it isn't economically feasible to have the airport open any more? The main airport on the island, in Lihue, is on the east side of the island, and most of the resorts that the tourist go to are clustered around Lihue, and down toward the southern part of the island near Poipu.

We arrived in Princeville, and quickly got about figuring out our transportation options. Knowing we had about 12 miles of road to cover to our trailhead at Ke'e Beach, we set off doing what any good Kauai local does to get around in Kauai: hitchhike! We started walking the road toward Ke'e Beach, and quickly picked up a ride. Drivers in Kauai are very friendly to hitchhikers since there are proportionally smaller numbers of drivers there than there are non-drivers. We got to the road's end, bid our gracious driver adieu, and set afoot on the Kalalau Trail, setting our sights on Hanakapiai Beach, two miles into the trail. There is a spur trail that heads inland along Hanakapiai Stream from Hanakapiai Beach to Hanakapiai Falls, and this is quite the tourist destination. So, the Kalalau Trail is miserably muddy and in poor shape from Ke'e Beach to Hanakapiai Beach. We set up tents and spent our first night, New Years night, in nice campsites at Hanakapiai Beach. It was very temperate, and it felt like we wouldn't need our tents. Little did I know of the Na Pali coast weather mid-winter...very windy at night! It blew our tents like crazy!

Next day we set out for our next day's destination: Hanakoa Camp, some five (5) miles distant. Since almost nobody went further along the Kalalau Trail than Hanakapiai Beach, we found the quality of the trail increase markedly. We found ourselves acclimatizing to the Kauai weather more this day, and made it to Hanakoa Camp around lunchtime. We set up camp there, and found a neat place along the creek where there was a small pool with a large rock above. We had a BLAST diving and jumping into the pool. We had dinner, set up camp again, and dealt with another windy night.

Next day we set out for the terminus of the trail, and the goal of our trip, Kalalau Beach, some five (5) miles distant. This is the most rugged section of the hike, but amazingly, this rugged five-mile section of trail was MUCH easier to negotiate than the two-mile section on the first day. It's amazing how you acclimate! We made it to Kalalau Beach around lunchtime, and set up camp under the brush back from the beach. We proceeded to walk the length of the beach to the far end to see the famed Kalalau waterfall. After a long day of hiking, this waterfall provides an awesome opportunity to clean off and get a natural "shower". While at the waterfall, we came to know some other folks who were staying at Kalalau Beach. We came to find out over the next few days that these people actually LIVED on Kalalau Beach, and in hamlets up in the nearby Kalalau Valley, the massive valley formed by the Kalalau Stream as it erodes the "Pali" or cliffs on its journey north to the ocean. Not only did these folks live out here, but their choice of clothing (or lack thereof) was a bit surprising. No matter, without any morals to speak of, neither me nor any of the other members of my party had any objections. We made friends quickly, and were invited to our first community Kalalau Beach dinner later that evening.

We had a great dinner of passionfruit, oranges, guava, and the "native" plant of Kauai, taro. The taro root is much like a potato, and is usually boiled like a potato in order to eat it. Guava and passionfruit grow in abundance up in the Kalalau Valley, where many of our hosts made their "permanent" residence. The feeling of community was strong, and I really enjoyed it. Our hosts regaled us with stories of living off the land and traveling into "town" at Hanalei and further to Kapaa and Lihue to restock. Hitchhiking was always the means of transportation when off the trail. We visited until much after sunset, and then retreated to our tents under the trees.

I spent the better part of the next three days doing much of the same. Relaxing for many hours on the beach, swimming in the ocean, climbing up the use trails (there are no official trails) into Kalalau Valley to forage for taro and fruit, and exploring the many neat hideaways that Kalalau Beach has to offer.

During all this free time, I had a great deal of time to think. It was here, on Kalalau Beach, 3000 miles from home, that I decided that I needed Jesus. My life was a mess. I had been in a physical and amazingly UN-fulfilling relationship with a woman that ended very badly. I had been spending a lot of time with Christian friends during my college years, and their life and behavior was markedly different that the friends I now spent time with. Even with all the majesty and grandeur of Kalalau, all the freedom to live any way I liked, I was still lonely and in need of a Savior. A friend had been talking to me rather intently about Jesus just before I left for Hawaii. He knew all about the unhealthy relationship I had, and knew I was ripe to know of a Savior who would forgive and love me regardless of the things I had done.

I spent time journaling while in Kauai. I had never been much for journaling, but here it seemed appropriate. I mostly bemoaned my poor life choices, but talked as well about how amazing the place was, and how blessed I was to be enjoying it. I don't remember actually writing it down, but during my quiet times alone on the beach, I knew this experience would be the beginning of something big for me. I would go back home, and ask my friend more about this Jesus. I would find out how to get involved in a life with meaning and value.

I returned home after spending two amazing weeks in Hawaii a new man. I talked with my friend, and within two weeks decided to accept Jesus as my Lord and Savior. The day was February 4th, 1995.

Life has never been the same since...