Saturday, January 31, 2009

Spray or Stream?

There is a universally recognized division of camps in this world - the dividing line a clear mark in the sand. Do you prefer cats, or dogs? Drink tea, or coffee? Early bird, or night owl? Spray, or stream?

This last one was not previously understood by myself until my husband so clearly, consistently, and stubbornly insisted on it. What is it, you ask? It is the way you prefer the water to flow out of the kitchen sink, when given the option.

In the process of our kitchen overhaul we purchased a beautiful farmhouse stainless steel sink. This wonderful addition required a new faucet, as the previous one was tired, scratched, and rather ugly. Our choice was an elegant arching faucet. The designers used a minimalist look, so the whole package has a sleek, no nonsense feel to it. But they didn't want to skimp on amenities, and included a detaching nozzle built into the stem, as well as hidden buttons that switch the water between spray and stream. Brilliant.

Christopher and I both really enjoy the new kitchen sink functionality. Being able to pull the nozzle out to rinse the sink is invaluable. And I greatly appreciate the spray option when needing to rinse off an exceptionally soiled utensil, or plate. But the pay-off for this is water splattering everywhere from the height, and pressure of the spray bouncing off dishes, and even the sink itself. Apparently my husband has not received this memo.

I began noticing that every time I turned the faucet on after he had been using the sink the spray option was always activated. I thought it odd that he was consistently stuck rinsing the aforementioned " exceptionally soiled utensil, or plate," but thought nothing more of it. A week passed, then another, and another until finally I was watching him do dishes one evening and noticed the faucet was permanently switched to spray.

Oh, hon your nozzle is on spray.


Well, don't you want to switch it to stream? It won't splash everywhere that way.

No. The spray works better.

You mean you choose the spray for everything?

Of course. Don't you?

No! The stream provides a much better wash, and makes way less mess.

So you turn the nozzle to stream all the time?

Turn it to stream? You mean you switch it back to spray?

We both stopped, and began laughing. Christopher thought the kids were playing with the nozzle, and constantly turning the water back to stream after he corrected it to spray. Its understood proper setting. I thought Christopher was forgetting to reset the nozzle from finishing some highly specialized task requiring the unique, but certainly not general purpose, use of the spray. We were in opposites camps!

I still use stream, almost without exception; and I am now convinced he turns it to spray even if only filling a glass of water for the kids to drink. Its okay though, since I am actively working to brainwash the children to recognize the superior choice.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Tuesday's Tip

This Tuesday's Tip is about my favorite chore... folding laundry. Ha! Is there any other activity more filled with monotonous boredom than folding millions of pairs of underwear? I know none.

So, I stopped.

Well, I stopped folding all those little things that our grandmothers ironed, like underwear and socks. Bibs and burpies went by the wayside as well. I purchased plastic tubs, drawer dividers, and cute baskets so each item has a contained home whether it is visible on a shelf in my living room, or tucked away in the closet. I buy one brand of white socks, and one brand of black socks for both my husband and son. This frees me from finding and pairing mates since every sock matches every other. The girls have chosen to spend a few minutes finding matches in order to have cute socks. Hey, more power to them *wink*. But honestly, when was the last time you thought to yourself:

Man, am I glad my underwear were folded because the time I spent doing that REALLY improved my day!


Friday, January 23, 2009

Night Terrors

There are few absolutes known about the phenomenon called night terrors. Pediatricians liken it to sleep walking, only with a rather dramatic twist. A child (adults can get them too, although it is not very common) will suddenly "wake" up screaming, and usually experiencing some manner of delusion that is incredibly terrifying. The causes are nebulous, including sleep deprivation, poor day-time routine, stress, and development of the imagination in toddler years. Experts agree that resolution of the night terror is best done with a hands-off approach. Trying to fully wake the child, intervene, and even talking to the child can exacerbate the terror, making it intensify or last longer. Parents are encouraged to "run interference", keeping the child safe from any stairs, windows, or other physical dangers. This sounds all fine and dandy until it is your precious 3 year old screaming that bugs are crawling all over her.

Mary experienced her first night terror about six months ago. She has had them two times since, with the last one occurring on Wednesday. Mary awoke at 4am, screaming so loudly she woke all of her sisters, and thrashing around in her bed frantically crying for us to, "get the bugs off!" Between 4:00 and 6:30 that morning she alternately dozed, and desperately sought to find the source of bugs in the bed. We moved her into our room, where she snuggled between her Daddy and me while we quietly explained over and over that there were no bugs. We prayed, we tried to rest, we felt terribly that Mary was seeing bugs, and we waited...

Our sweet girl finally collapsed from exhaustion at 7:20 in the morning. Of course it would be the one morning I have a commitment, and at 8:30 when I tried to get her up and dressed she was like jell-o, complaining, "Mama, I so tired." Tell me about it!

So now what do we do? Well, we are working to ensure that our activities during the day are not causing these disturbances at night. But perhaps more importantly that that, we are praying every night that our Lord remembers his word:

Psalm 4:8
I will lie down and sleep in peace, 
for you alone, O LORD, 
make me dwell in safety.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Tuesday's Tip

I realize that some of the things I have learned from trial and error over six children might help someone else... before they deliver their sixth child! I am beginning "Tuesday's Tip" in an effort to share what may be helpful to you. The first one is certainly one of my favorites!

Layered bed sheets. I think I would take this into my own bed if I could find a way to do it! I don't know how many of you love to change your child's crib sheets - especially when you have the added bonus of tying and untying the bumper pad, in the middle of the night, with a fussy baby who just threw up everywhere. No fun! This simple recipe takes loads of hassle out of this frustrating situation!

-Remove the crib mattress entirely and place a crib sized waterproof pad followed by a white sheet onto the mattress. Follow with alternating waterproof pads and colored/patterned crib sheets. I usually layer about 6 sheets. Now, every time your sweet one pees, throws up, or just needs a new sheet all you have to do is whisk off the top layer with pad to reveal underneath a completely clean sheet! When you get to the white sheet you know you are at the bottom. I recommend Carter's Waterproof Mattress Crib Pads as the most thorough in keeping larger messes, like a diaper that leaked at the beginning of nap, from seeping all the way through to the layer beneath. However, be aware that only plastic (which does not breathe well) is truly "waterproof" - everything else will leak eventually.

Replace the mattress, attached your bumper and voila, you have just beat the system. Now when that accident occurs you can have a clean sheet in a jiffy, without all the fuss.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Bethany's Composition

Bethany has learned how to use the camera. She is practicing her skills with composition. I think she shows promise in the still-life pharmaceutical advertising campaigns known world-wide for their keen eye on asymmetry, and motionless expressionism.

Saturday, January 17, 2009


As we are experiencing record highs in January (80 degrees), while other parts of our great nation are experiencing record lows (-50 in Maine) it got me to thinking about a quirk of my eldest son, Caleb. The concept of regulated body temperature didn't seem to make it into Caleb's brain mass, and so he insists on wearing shorts year round, regardless of the climate. To top even this the shorts are all swim shorts. This basically means any blast of air finds its way home in a jiffy! We occasionally insist on him wearing long pants, but I don't think he has ever initiated changing into warmer clothes. Perhaps this would be no big deal if Caleb stayed inside, where I generally manage the overall temperature for a year round comfort. But he would rather be outside, all day, every day, any day than stuck inside.

The flip side of this is how he dresses for bed. Once again, regardless of whether it is warm, cold, or hot he generally prefers to wear sweats. On top of this, he pulls the covers over his head and completely buries himself. The hotter, the better. He sweats so much in his bed that there are times he almost wonders (as do his poor parents) if he had an accident. Nope, just all that hydration that froze in his blood during the previous day's winter expedition... in shorts.

Like I said before, I don't think that part of his brain is working yet. Apparently I didn't get the activation code in my user's manual.

Thursday, January 15, 2009


Josiah likes bananas.

Really, really, really likes them.

He had already eaten 2 large jars of baby food along with some bagel, but when Daddy pulled out the bananas he still ate the whole thing.

I bet you didn't know that bananas tout being the world's favorite fruit. I am not sure if that is derived by global sales, or the empirical evidence procured from interviewing every person on the planet. Either way my son agrees.

I don't have to feel guilty over his love of this food since it rates as one of the most nutritious fruits available. The combination of high potassium, low sodium, good fiber, and vitamins like crazy, including a full range of the Bs, all work together to keep Josiah free of scurvy.

In fact, if my son is suffering from any of the following then bananas have the cure!

-Anaemia: High in iron, bananas can stimulate the production of haemoglobin in the blood and so helps in cases of anaemia.

-Blood Pressure: This unique tropical fruit is extremely high in potassium yet low in salt, making it the perfect food for helping to beat blood pressure. So much so, the US Food and Drug Administration has just allowed the banana industry to make official claims for the fruit's ability to reduce the risk of blood pressure and stroke.

-Brain Power: 200 students at an English school were helped through their exams this year by eating bananas at breakfast, break and lunch in a bid to boost their brain power. Research has shown that the potassium-packed fruit can assist learning by making pupils more alert. (Those results are certainly conclusive with the staggering statistic based on 200 individual accounts!)

-Constipation: High in fiber, including bananas in the diet can help restore normal bowel action, helping to overcome the problem without resorting to laxatives.

-Depression: According to a recent survey undertaken by MIND amongst people suffering from depression, many felt much better after eating a banana. This is because bananas contain tryptophan, a type of protein that the body converts into serotonin - known to make you relax, improve your mood and generally make you feel happier.

-Hangovers: One of the quickest ways of curing a hangover is to make a banana milkshake, sweetened with honey. The banana calms the stomach and, with the help of the honey, builds up depleted blood sugar levels, while the milk soothes and re-hydrates your system.

-Heartburn: Bananas have a natural antacid effect in the body so if you suffer from heart-burn, try eating a banana for soothing relief.

-Morning Sickness: Snacking on bananas between meals helps to keep blood sugar levels up and avoid morning sickness. (Apparently no other food is capable of keeping your blood sugar levels up between meals.)

-Mosquito bites: Before reaching for the insect bite cream, try rubbing the affected area with the inside of a banana skin. Many people find it amazingly successful at reducing swelling and irritation.

-Nerves: Bananas are high in B vitamins that help calm the nervous system.

-PMS: Forget the pills - eat a banana. The vitamin B6 it contains regulates blood glucose levels, which can affect your mood.

-Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD): Bananas can help SAD sufferers because they contain the natural mood enhancer, trypotophan.

-Smoking: Bananas can also help people trying to give up smoking, as the high levels of Vitamin C, A1, B6, B12 they contain, as well as the potassium and magnesium found in them, help the body recover from the effects of nicotine withdrawal.

-Stress: Potassium is a vital mineral, which helps normalise the heartbeat, sends oxygen to the brain and regulates your body's water-balance. When we are stressed, our metabolic rate rises, thereby reducing our potassium levels. These can be re-balanced with the help of a high-potassium banana snack. (I prefer to simply remove the stress.)

-Strokes: According to research in "The New England Journal of Medicine"eating bananas as part of a regular diet can cut the risk of death by strokes by as much as 40%!

-Ulcers: The banana is used as the dietary food against intestinal disorders because of its soft texture and smoothness. It is the only raw fruit that can be eaten without distress in over-chronic ulcer cases. It also neutralises over-acidity and reduces irritation by coating the lining of the stomach.

-Warts: Those keen on natural alternatives swear that, if you want to kill off a wart, take a piece of banana skin and place it on the wart, with the yellow side out. Carefully hold the skin in place with a plaster or surgical tape!

Basically, I have accomplished my job as a mother by introducing him to bananas. Aren't I good?

Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Plan

Children pick up on the little sayings you use. I have a tendency to say, "here is the plan..." and then proceed to lay out whatever I have in mind for the hour/day/week. My husband caught on to this idiosyncrasy of mine, and now asks me, "what's the plan?" Is it any wonder then that my children now have plans of their own? Leah began about four months ago, and has now transferred this routine to her sister, Mary, where each night after the girls have done their bedtime preparations, and are getting tucked into bed they must tell Daddy the plan. They can not tell him before they are in bed. In fact they can not tell him before he says the Lord's prayer with them. But heaven forbid if he forgets to hear the plan, and leaves the room uneducated. We have, on a number of occasions, heard Leah's whimpers turn into a full blown cry only to discover the cause is her aggrieved spirit at not sharing the plan with Daddy. Sometimes I count - but not usually.

So what is the plan? Tonight's plan looks almost identical to each night's predecessor, and should stand in good stead as an example of any night.

Daddy, I have to tell you the plan.

What is it, Leah?

After I wake up, and eat breakfast, and do Psalm, and watch a movie, and eat lunch, and Mary takes a nap, and I play with puzzles, and I play with Polly Pocket, and we go to the park, and I eat dinner, and I take a bath. That's the plan okay, Daddy?

Okay, Leah.

Mary's is a bit less robust, but nevertheless worth mentioning.

*whispering loud enough to wake the dead*
Daddy, I haffa tell you plan!

Okay, Mary. What is the plan?

Affer I wake up, an I eat bwekfest, an I do Psalm, an I eat bwekfest, an I watch movie, an I go outside, an I watch movie, an I eat bwekfest. OKAY, DADDY? *once again, making sure she is whispering for our neighbors to hear*

Okay, Mary. That's a good plan.

And so another night ends in our home. We prepare to follow the plan for the coming new day, including the retelling of the plan for the next, and the next, and the next day to come.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Poison Oak

I was informed somewhat on the sly that there was concern over my petering spirituality since I had missed church for the past few weeks. Thankfully the informer shared that they read the blog, and understood that I was sick - though the possibility of healing through a greater movement of faith on my part certainly could be entertained *wink*. I have felt like quite the heathen as my husband rushes out the door for another churchy event while I sit by and wave. Tonight, again, I was the waver.

I have poison oak. I grew up understanding all too clearly how the results of contact with the dreaded poison oak plant, bush, vine, sentient green villainous monster works. I have managed to steer clear of this dreaded rash for nearly 20 years. Obvioulsy I am doing something right! So here is the clincher: I reacted to firewood I was picking up which had no visible poison oak present, and had sat in someone's garage for two years. TWO YEARS. To say I am sensitive is a wee bit of an understatement. But I digress.

Monday morning I thought I would start honing my fire-making skills (insert link to the blog Christopher needs to write about how we are now heating our home with fire for most evenings, and his transformation into a frontier man - axe included) and so I grabbed a couple armfuls of firewood, and brought them inside. By Monday afternoon my arms were itchy, but I thought nothing of it. I was outside most of the day the previous Wednesday and Thursday, and thought perhaps I got a bit of a sunburn which was beginning to heal. However, by Monday night right before bed I suddenly caught myself itching elsewhere, and the dreaded idea sprang, completely unbiden and even with slight denial, that I had poison oak. I ran to the bathroom and had a good look at myself in the mirror. Sure enough, a rash had spread up my arms and across much of my trunk. By the time I went to bed I knew I had it on my arms, trunk, parts of my legs, one earlobe, and both sides of my hands. Yes, palms are a lovely place to get an irritatingly burning, itchy rash.

Today, after calling my dermatologist, getting on a topical corticosteroid, using Calahyst, and praying fervently for the second coming of Christ, I can report that I have the rash almost from head to foot. My face, neck, ears, back, arms, hands, trunk, legs, feet, between my toes, and even on my soles all bear the lovely markings of this post-Eden world. I was actually mentally prepared for this since it has never been my experience to contain the rash more than keeping it on me, and not transferring it to, say, the walls. I will say, with the caveat that I can deny this statement in another few days if it fails to hold true, that the quickness with which I started used my topical steroid (I snuck some of the kids' for their excema before my own came through) seems to be keeping the rash from blistering. I think this is good since one medical source said any effort to minimize the rash's symptoms once blisters formed was useless. Of course I also try to use this as a possible sign that I am not suffering from the dreaded reaction, but one scratch proves this dream wrong - with that oh-so-familiar relief/burn/itches worse that accompanies any such action. For now I am trying to gear myself up for the standard 3 week recovery cycle, and hoping that maybe I might be spared... even if only a few days.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Divine Comedy

I know that God has a certain sense of humor reserved most especially for weary, often overwhelmed mothers bearing a striking resemblance to myself. It shines in the absurd, ridiculous, and comedic events of my every day "normal" life. But sometimes it comes through someone else's voice. A little bit of God smiling down on me. I just experienced one such moment.

A couple of nights ago I had myself a good little yap at the children over their eating habits. Between allergies (this one can't have any dairy, that one is deathly allergic to oatmeal, don't forget the carrots, corn, potatoes, eggs, peanuts, lamb - well that's not hard - but spices like pepper and garlic salt can be insidious, and add to it peas, citrus, bananas, and tomatoes), and the almost constant childhood disease of discontentment you have a recipe for one exhausted Mama! Try as I might to fix wholesome, allergen free meals which appeal to everyone the outcome, more often than not, is at least one of my precious children complaining about what is before them. Now, this might not be a problem if I was of the school that allowed children to define for themselves what constituted breakfast, lunch and dinner. It might also be less of a hazard if I was independently wealthy, and able to afford all the specialty foods which my children adore (like beef bologna). But, as it were, I believe one of my principle jobs is training my children to work within the parameters of established boundaries, like sitting at the table and eating at meal times rather than roaming through the kitchen foraging like wild beasts. And I also believe that sacrifice is part of every person's inheritance on this earth, so opening my children's eyes to it at an early age by showing them that our budget can not afford wheat chex breakfast cereal every morning prepares them for a more seamless transition into productive adulthood. I value these concepts very much. They are the reason I make many of my decisions surrounding meal planning, preparation, and serving. Unfortunately, regardless of how altruistic, valuable, legitimate, or otherwise trusted these concepts are it does not change the fact that I am the one listening to my children, once again, complain about some (or every) aspect of their mealtime. And so I snapped night before last, when, after a grueling day of caulking and painting kitchen cabinet doors, I had made ham with homemade glaze, green beans, and pineapple chunks so my children could receive nutrition outside of intravenous infusion (which is sounding better every day) only to be met with lackluster appreciation, and waning appetites. I should note the irony that this dinner, under most other circumstances, is not only acceptable but preferred by my family. So the rejection stung all the worse that in my attempt to serve my loved ones by taking the time to think through and prepare a meal they enjoyed it was eaten thanklessly.

I had enough! Towards the very end of the meal I took a handful of sliced ham pieces, chewed to leave the outer edge (and consequently a large portion of meat deemed to close for consumption) and threw them back on the table. "I have had enough of this kind of pickiness from all of you! I make a dinner you all like only to have you whine about the glaze, the edge, the texture, the whatever. I make homemade bread so you can refuse to eat the crust. I make hot cereal each morning only to listen to you complain about how much more you prefer cold packaged cereal. You want McDonald's, pizza, bagels, anything other than the food I work to prepare for you at home. I am fed up with it!" Practically in tears I began clearing the table in such earnest that children scattered to guarantee their survival. Of course one particular child's voluntary conversation with me about their regret over my hurt feelings, and their corresponding responsibility along with a good night's sleep helped me feel much better in the morning. I was bolstered to look in the face of another day's meal planning, even though I was leery of the inevitable confrontation it would bring. That's when God decided it was time I saw him smiling - reminding me that while I may be exhausted, overwhelmed, and even taken for granted He sees me, sharing my joys and my sorrows, and gently giving me perspective for a soul that can laugh, rather than cry at life's little lessons.

I stayed home from church this morning due to a bad head-cold suffered by myself, and my two littlest ones. When my husband arrived home, toting the rest of our gang in his wake, he plopped a book on the table and absent-mindedly mentioned that it was a house warming gift from some friends of ours. It looked like a children's book. A house warming gift? I was baffled. I picked it up, and chuckled at the book's cover illustration showing seven children sitting around a table in varying states of eating. The name? The Seven Silly Eaters. Not chuckling quite so much as before I opened the book, and literally almost cried as I read the sweet verses of a family with seven children whose mother tried so hard to accommodate each little person's idiosyncrasies surrounding their food choices. For many other families it takes the familiar to the absurd through the unusual number of children, but for me, in my 5th month of pregnancy with  baby #7, it was almost perfectly applicable. Even with its fairy tale ending the hysterical anecdotes of a mother caring for her brood touched my heart with the humor of my own situation. I know that someday I will look back on these days of meal planning, staring at simply my husband across an empty table, and marvel with laughter at how we managed to feed all those children so many years ago. Divine comedy allows me to giggle now at what will surely make my sides ache in another decade... or two.

Home Sick

Mary, Josiah and I are home sick. The rest of the family went to church. It has been a fun morning, even with schmoutz, coughs, and sneezes. I don't often get the opportunity to spend this much quiet time with only one or two of my children. Josiah went down for an early nap, and it has been me and Mary for the rest of the morning. We watched Horton Hears a Who on dvd, read Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, and played puzzles. We sang the Mary Ellen song together, Twinkle Twinkle Little Star, and the alphabet song. We cuddled, giggled, and smiled at one another. Yep - it has been a sweet morning!