Thursday, July 28, 2011

A wee bit too busy

Those weeks where life is just absolutely kicking you in the bum? I am having one. But it's good. I've been involved with VBS this week, an effort by 3 area churches to pool resources and talent to make a really great VBS. I took the Middle School group and have been having such a great time! The kids are really mellow and sweet. They've been game for anything I've thrown at them, and we've had a fun time and lots of meaningful discussion. Doing this well also means a lot of prep work, so I've been trying not to neglect my own family and home, with mixed results. Our only family activity this week is VBS because I don't have more in me. Tonight is the last night, and I'll miss the kids in my group, but it'll be good to have evening down time. The boys are going to the neighborhood VBS down the street next week as well.

In addition to VBS, I had a prenatal appt yesterday, and things are good. I'm gaining weight very slowly, but she's measuring right and is very strong. I've put on 11 lbs in 6 months according to the OB's office, plus a few prior to that. However, when I was expecting each of the boys I put on 13lbs the first trimester! I don't know if it's because we eat a healthier diet now or because my 3rd and 4th pregnancies were for girls, but I just haven't gained as much with the last two.

This morning I have a babywearing workshop/playdate at the church. It'll be a lot of fun and a good way to spend a morning out. I'm making a bit of fresh salsa, and I'll save some for home. I think we'll have fajitas tonight, pizza tomorrow, and tabbouleh and falafel with maybe some shish taouk on Saturday.

I am running on a sleep deficit this week and am looking forward to things calming down soon. This week may not even seem like a lot, but when you factor in my high need/ high energy kids and M constantly taking her diaper off, it's plenty! The sleep deficit is mostly my own anxiety keeping me up, but it's also this little munchkin stretching and dancing!

Friday, July 22, 2011

Adapted VBS lesson plan for Sunday - Thursday

As someone who didn't particularly like VBS as a kid (okay, I hated it), it's funny to be teaching it. I'm firm in my desire to make sure it's not lousy because faith matters a lot to me, and I hate to see spiritual things mis-handled. Here's my scope and sequence :)

Day 1- God made me
Verse Psalm 139:14
Creation story with emphasis on how God values each of us
Begin bracelet craft (beads for each day: globe, fire, fish, cross, baby or grapes)
Snack will be personally crafted trail mix because we're all different and all specially made
Game will be an outdoor hunt for symbols of the days of creation

Day 2 - God listens to me
Verse Exodus 15:11
Story of Elijah and the priests of Baal
Begin stained glass candle holder - "leading" with puffy paint
Snack - s'mores like little altars that we try to light with magnifying glasses, sterno used if necessary :)
That is also the game/outdoor portion

Day 3 - God watches over you and guides and protects you
Verse Jonah 4:2b
Story of Jonah being in the belly of a whale when he tried to run from God
Add to bracelet and decorate bags or T-shirts
Watch first portion of Jesus movie while snacking on Goldfish
Game - water balloon toss on sheets to simulate stormy sea Jonah was on

Day 4 - God loves you, no matter what
Verse- Romans 6:23
Show rest of Jesus movie
snack on resurrection rolls - crescent rolls with marshmallows that disappear

Day 5 - God gives good gifts
Verse James 1:17
Bible story of Hannah yearning for a baby, and her dedication of him to serve in the temple. He became Samuel the prophet.
Finish beaded bracelet and sign t-shirts with positive messages.
Snack of fruit salad with grapes (a big symbol from the story)
Game will be a relay to get water balloons (grapes) from one bucket to another and break them into the second bucket without losing water.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Kefir prep - how to ferment milk. (and why!)

Find a kind soul with extra grains, which look like over-boiled cauliflower chunks. 2 big rules: don't touch them with metal and don't store them in plastic. Also, don't feed them after midnight. Wait, forget that last one; those are gremlins.

-Rinse grains with milk and drain.
-Pour milk over the grains in a glass jar and cover with a lid that will allow for expansion. I use a canning jar with a plastic bag and the ring to hold the plastic in place. I do a quart at a time.
-Leave this on the counter for 24 hours or until the culture mass rises to the top.
-Shake it to loosen grains from cultured milk
-Drain that liquid into a clean jar. That's kefir. It'll smell like yogurt with vinegar and maybe a hint of elmer's glue. Yeah.
-Put the grains back into a clean jar and pour enough milk on them just to cover. Loosely cover the top and refrigerate until next time. If it'll be a while, freeze 'em. They'll be fine.
-When you get big fat grains that ferment your kefir really fast, put an emergency supply in your freezer in case you kill yours, but that's hard to do! Or be an awesome person and pass your extra grains on!

Of course the big question is: why would I want to do this?!? Kefir helps balance out the belly, particularly beneficial bacteria and yeast, so that the gut can do its work absorbing the good stuff and fighting off or eliminating the bad stuff. I drink a few of kefir ounces every day in a smoothie with yogurt and berries.

Simplest plain yogurt recipe for about 60 cents a quart.

Tia, a college friend and fellow blogging momma, suggested that I write about yogurt. I thought, "didn't I?". Turns out I did, but it's buried and my method wasn't set yet. So here it is. You can start with fluid milk, but I find I have to scald it, which is a pain, so I use powdered. If you are using fluid milk, you can give it a shot without scalding. Or heat it to 180, cool it to 90, add the starter and proceed to "shake it" below.

-1 quart glass jar with lid, very clean
-1 1/2 c Powdered milk, non-fat, whole, organic- all fine
-2-4 T of Stoneyfield plain yogurt for starter. (6 beneficial bacteria!) I store it flat in a freezer bag and break off chunks for starter. Very scientific.
-Enough filtered water to fill the jar after the other two ingredients go in.

Shake it.
Keep it warm (100-115-ish) for 9-18 hours. I use a soft-sided cooler with a non-auto-shutoff heating pad. It holds 2 qt jars.

Wanna make it Greek-style? It makes great tzatziki!
Strain the whey out until the yogurt gets to your desired thickness. For example, I use a canning jar and replace the disc lid with some open weave cloth and set it at an angle over a drip-catching container. Strain it really long, and it'll be yo-cheese, which is like cream cheese.

My iPod won't let me post photos from my iPod to blogger, so I'll try to add photos when I get my hands on Dr. O's laptop.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

On Sleep, Energy, and Commitments

Last night I couldn't fall asleep until 11:30, and I was up every two hours and couldn't get back to sleep after 5:30 because of thunderstorms. I concentrated on laundry for the morning because I'd been two loads behind for a few days. The last load is headed for the dryer in a few minutes, and I do have a modest pile left to fold and put away with the boys' help. The kids played together all morning, including 45 minutes of play-doh. Sometimes on a lousy day I need to do some soothing kitchen rituals, so I prepped some kefir and 1/2 gallon of yogurt for culturing, and hopefully no play-doh contaminated it, bleck! I've been needing to get back to my smoothie routine, so culturing more dairy will make that easier. I feel much better energy all morning when I have the right breakfast!

I think we'll grill some veggies and chicken and toss them with pasta for dinner, especially now that the sun is coming back out and might dry the yard enough for some outdoor play this evening. I'm trying to eat some feel-good food that helps keep me energized and doesn't make me gain over 30lbs. Ice cream doesn't help that, BTW.

Starting Sunday we have a multi-church VBS that I'm teaching the middle schoolers for, and the boys have the neighborhood VBS the next week. And school starts in A MONTH. I'd rather not send them back to school, but I know adding homeschool right now is a bad idea. If I'm chronically not getting enough sleep, I can't try a new big project with all my kids home every day. I want to be realistic and do the right thing for each kid. Making a school change while adding a baby seems to not be the right choice. We'll give it another try this year and re-evaluate in December.

I want to commit my time to fruitful things. If I'm going to homeschool, I want it to be the best available option for the kids. If I can't do it well, there's no point in putting inflexible kids through a big change. I need to focus on getting time with Mara and getting my home ready for little sister. I want to spend time building community so that I have support through this next big change.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Mostly peaceful Sunday

Sunday morning was an episode of The Wiggles in the back pew. I made it through the service with the support of a fellow parishioner since Dan was assisting minister today. I had to take kids out 3 times during the service but still got to hear a great sermon on Matthew 13.

We had no screen time today after naughty church behavior, and the kids were mostly pretty great for the rest of the day. The kids plaued out back a lot and enjoyed each other's company, which is beautiful. Dr. O' vacuumed the downstairs and put meals on the table today, and he got a nap and a haircut. I bathed the dog pre-emptively because I'm really alarmed about what in the heck is going on with the neighbors' dogs.

This week I have to get my VBS thoughts to congeal before I go teach the 5-7th grade group. We'll have to keep things active and moving so they don't get bored and so they make a connection with the stories. I'm looking forward to it and am also nervous since I feel like the 3rd trimester just hit like a freight train full of sleeping pills. The boys will also be part of VBS that our church does and the one at the little church 3 blocks away in a few weeks. They enjoyed the neighborhood one very much last year, and I'd like to keep that connection for them. It's bizarre to think that M will be old enough for VBS next summer and possibly preschool that fall!

Her stomach trouble has returned, and I suspect she has diarrhea from teething. Too much saliva swallowed into a sensitive tummy might be the culprit. We'll start some probiotics and see what kind of progress we make. Her lower canines are the only teeth that haven't emerged yet, and they've been hard on all my kids. I think it's messing with her sleep as well, so hopefully they'll emerge soon.

My 25-week belly has a certain basketball-like quality, but with internal movement. She's active and strong, like all my little monkeys! I think we may be getting somewhere on names as well.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Wheeling Mountain Sprouts

There is nothing like being in a group of like-minded moms who are all comfortable in their own skin and cool enough not to get all competitive or threatened. I love being part of a group where everyone has something to share and each is willing to elaborate on her successes and failures. I'm all about finding solutions instead of dispensing momma advice. I'm also thrilled to be forming a community of mothers who want to do the best they can for their families and the planet. Finding people who are de-emphasizing material wealth and focusing on meaningful intra-family and inter-family socializing and support is what I've been looking for this past year. I couldn't care less what someone's faith background or education level is if we can have an easy chat about parenting that isn't processed, that isn't a system and a series of products, but rather one that is a series of careful choices based on the needs of each family. My children are remarkable and are individuals, so the one-size methods of child-raising will never be a fit here, and I suspect they're often a poor fit for many other remarkable little people, which I believe they all are!

Wheeling friends, if you are a momma of young kids and are looking for this kind of community, I invite you to Wheeling Mountain Sprouts. We are just forming right now, but I see great promise for this group. We're "natural" but not monolithic. I leave feeling so uplifted and supported as a momma. Plus, no one will make you sit at the same table every time ;).

Friday, July 15, 2011

Another week of wacky-ness

I feel like every few weeks I write a post that goes something like "here's a hot mess of craziness that happened at my house this week". Yeah. I have variations on that week a lot. It's kinda my thing.

Last Friday was rainy and I got the kids to the library to see the World's Least Worthwhile Puppet Show. Really bad. We came in late and stayed about 7 minutes. The puppeteer was too quiet and had the wolf from the 3 pigs singing a song from the 1940s cartoon Little Lulu, ' cause that's what kids these days are into, don'tcha know? Kids were whining and squirming, and adults were talking. It was bad! M got scared, and I figured I put up with enough lousy church puppet shows to last me a lifetime, so we sneaked out only to have the door creak LOUDLY behind us. We got the children's section mostly to ourselves until other shamefaced parents took our hint and sneaked out too, possibly awakened to the thought that they too could follow my poor example and leave the puppet show since the puppets can't actually see them leave.

The weekend was fairly uneventful, except for Dr. O' and I having our first tiff in probably 6 months. All was patched up in a hurry and we're fine. We disagree so seldom that it really wears us both out! Unfortunately one of the Jedis witnessed the beginning of the argument and was very upset by it, but it was a good chance to explain to him that his family is safe and Mom and Dad really love each other. It was truly the worst part of the incident.

Monday I decided to try to get a swim playdate together, and one other family was able to join us. We were there an hour before the thunderstorm hit. Oh well. At least M had gotten her nap! She also decided to tackle potty training recently, and she's learning. However, she's also trying to give up naps, which makes things challenging. No moody toddler will ever really want to comply with the constraints of "please pee here, not on the floor ", but she's making progress.

On Monday afternoon Dan discovered two $65 charges to our bank account for a Warner bros online gift shop. He filed a dispute, and we got our money back, and they were able to stop shipment on the items! Good gracious, stealing from a young family that is quite thrifty seems especially despicable to me!

Tuesday and Wednesday were more potty training, and the kids and I were trying to stick to our weekday routine. However, on Tuesday afternoon it all went nuts. The boys were playing outside and sprayed a patch of exposed dirt, making mud yet again! I had run in to move the washer load and put the pasta in the pot. I settled them into a rather long time-out until Dan came home and went to drain the pasta. The water hit a bowl in the sink and splashed my pregnant belly, giving me a 2nd degree but smallish burn. I was cleaning up this mess and getting a clean shirt and burn cream when I discovered that M had peed on our pretty laminate bedroom floor, warping it slightly. Ugh. Dan was home soon and helped out tremendously for the rest of the night, which he usually does.

Wednesday the neighbor was weed whacking and may have sent a bit of fence wire into our yard, which I stepped on and cut my food rather deeply. His dogs have mange, for one thing. MANGE. Two also died last year from some tainted dog food. His dogs are never healthy, and they always remind me of the Bumpus hounds on A Christmas Story, the smelly buggers. I also knew that dogs had lived in my yard, and of course Peach poops there. I called the OB and asked what to do, and they said to hurry up and get a tetanus shot, which was about 8 years overdue. At the urgent care office, I demanded just that shot and with no thimerosal. When they wavered in their certainty about this, i made them call the company and tell me whether they could verify this. They did, and I got the shot. I was not about to risk losing a baby to a treatable and preventable infection.

Thursday left me feeling another wave of Wheeling loneliness, but not terrible. I ran some errands and then took the kids to the park, where they had a great time for 3 hours! Another mom acquaintance with a girl about M's age and another girl due the same week as I am also showed up, which was an unexpected blessing. We lazed around for the afternoon and then enjoyed a simple dinner and playtime out back.

Today was pay day, and although we've got savings, we try to shop as if we don't so that we can use that money for a van. So the kids and I grocery shopped on a Friday morning. We got a late start, but everyone had jobs to do, and I was surprised at how calm and capable I felt! It was nice to feel the extra measure of grace I had prayed for throughout the week at the point when I was most tired. Our plan was to get the cold stuff put away and get to the park for a magic show with hastily packed lunches. However, after the puppet fiasco, my kids weren't going for that. They helped me get the groceries in and put away, ate their lunches, and have settled down for a quiet afternoon, which is just what I needed too!

Monday, July 11, 2011

Brief homebody thought...

The day that I can't even get it together enough to put in my contacts or get dressed to get the mail is probably the day when I should make the extra effort and get my kids out of the house. Swimming seems like a good plan today with 92 forecasted for the afternoon and thunderstorms later! If we don't go somewhere, I will likely lose my mind!

Saturday, July 9, 2011

My sons and my daughters...

That's just such a weird thing to say... and I keep realizing that I could be saying that a lot! It was funny to go from "my son" or "my baby" to "my kids", or "both", and "brother". Quite another leap to refer to "all my kids", "my eldest/middle/youngest child", and stranger still "sister" and "she", a pronoun that A-man took months to master. Now I find myself referring to the boys' room and the girls' room, and it seems foreign, accurate though it may be.

The dynamic of pairs leaves me feeling so much at peace. IM and A-man are 18 months apart and spirited, but they are so very different. That difference allows room for each of them to feel special. I was not really comfortable with little M being the dainty princess of the house because of the attendant attitude commonly seen in little princesses. I really wanted a sister for her, for her to share the girly world with and to keep her firmly grounded as well. They can be as different as they are designed to be, and they will both be special, and they will have each other.

My sons and my daughters-- I can't wait to see you all together and to enjoy your abiding love for each other. Your playful and imaginative dramas have room for another little cast member, and I can't wait to see how much delight you will bring to each others' lives. It's one of the sweetest joys of mine!

Diaper obsession continues, potty training may be resuming?

M is having another jump in potty interest. We tried before, and she initiates it but decides that it's too much trouble eventually. I'm not about to push because potty training O'kids is really challenging! If she changes her mind, it's fine. I actually need a quorum of diapers to make running a load worthwhile, and a load of cloth can't wait more than 2-3 days without getting really gross! She's wearing cloth at night now anyway, so I'd prefer that she wear some diapers during the day. We got our own copies of videos that we had borrowed for the boys when they trained, and she is captivated! But she could change her mind tomorrow, and I refuse to make this a battle of wills with someone who could make my house smell like a public restroom!

In preparation for possibly having two girls in cloth, I ordered a few more Fuzzibunz cloth diapers this weekend thanks to a super sale! I also sent back a few diapers to the manufacturer because snaps came off. The company changed to a different country for labor (China to Turkey), which is an improvement in ethical practices, but they have had a few glitches in quality during the change, which they've been very quick to remedy. So we're getting 6 new diapers for $14 each (usually $20), and 3 new replacement diapers free from the company. I have a few that are pretty worn that I've never sent in for replacement, and I'll probably just keep using them if both girls are in diapers at the same time at least part of the day. I'll consider the new ones paid for by the time little sister is 2 months old since I spent $85 for 6 and I would spend $50/mo for disposables.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Hoosier ruminations

The kids and I made a very quick trip to Indiana over the weekend-- 900 miles, 15 hours in the car. It was busy and mostly fun.

I wanted to go because it was the 7th anniversary of the passing of my beloved grandpa, which happened the week that we moved to Notre Dame. We were able to be present as he was nearing death because we had moved so much closer, which I attribute to the work of the Holy Spirit, prompting us to move a week sooner. This weekend we visited with some of my family in South Bend and in Anderson and wished we'd had more time. It's a week when I really want to be with family each year.

We visited some Notre Dame friends briefly as well, which was balm for my children's little hearts as they've been really traumatized by our big move this past year. I can sympathize as I've struggled with depression all year as well. There was no way around the move, they know, but they have really struggled with no longer having free range outdoors and good little buddies ready to play with any time. I'm very cautious about who I let them play with because I firmly believe that "bad company corrupts good morals". I didn't need to worry much at Notre Dame, but I'm often concerned by what I hear out of parents' and children's mouths here, and it makes me reluctant to let the kids mix with other kids. Example: Aidan's classmate got off the bus wearing a lei, and his dad yells "hey son, I see you got laid today!". Crass and inappropriate in any context, but these were 5 year olds!

We are building a life here, but it's been slow going. Finding appropriate friends has taken time, and finding other families who can handle that we're a little rambunctious is a challenge. I like to find families with at least a few high energy kids, no room for perfectionism, similar values to ours, and a reasonable rapport between the mommas. I know my natural parenting crunchiness can be off-putting to some more mainstream moms, and it's so pervasive in our life that I am unable to keep it to myself since it has everything to do with what we eat, how we parent, how many children we have, and how we choose to live. I gotta do what works for us. I'm thankful that the natural parenting community here is forming! I miss my old community very much. It's a different place now, but I miss how I knew who I was when I was there.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Teensy Begrudging BumGenius Review

So I like Fuzzibunz diapers quite a bit. I bought the one BumGenius on a whim and thought it was okay. It would probably be better with Velcro, but I'm not a Velcro diaper fan. Fuzzibunz has snaps and adjustable elastic for a good fit, but the BumGenius has no such adjustability, just hit-or-miss snaps. It's not my favorite diaper.

That said, I bought another one yesterday. Why? Because I was thinking about how huge the pocket is for stuffing, and I thought it might work for bedtime. I put the BG 4.0 snap (Buttercream) that I bought months ago for $11 on M with both inserts and a FB newborn insert, with the snaps on the largest rise. Then I dressed her in a onesie and jammy pants and put her down for 12 hours. She had only minor wicking onto the onesie, but the pants and bed were dry. I'll admit I smelled the diaper and only got the faintest whiff of ammonia, which is important because I gave up nighttime cloth over ammonia issues in the first place. Her skin looked fine. I cancelled the next Subscribe & Save for a huge box of diapers and got another BG 4.0 snap in Zinnia for $17.95 with no shipping charges. I paid $28.95 total for the 2 BGs together thanks to some reward points I had at a cloth diaper store. The box of LUVs that were scheduled to ship would've cost me $27. The new diaper will be here soon, and I'm excited to cut another regular expense, even if we only buy disposables every 3-6 months. Maybe now we'll be done with them for M unless we travel before she potty trains. Nothing will change in the wash routine, which is cheap and occurs every other day regardless of how many diapers I throw in. 2 more nighttime diapers won't make any difference! You got me Cottonbabies. I like your diaper, but don't tell anyone!

Update: the zinnia Bumgenius 4.0 snap arrived and we've used cloth for 3 nights successfully! We have 2 so that we can have enough to wash them every other day and have a fresh one on hand each night. I'm thinking we'll need one more for a rotation for her, but she's also giving potty training another try, so I may not have a full load of diapers every other day until October. Either way, I'm happy to be minimizing our use of disposables!

Friday, July 1, 2011

Allergy test results & some gardening stuff

M's allergy testing wasn't super-helpful, although it did indicate an egg-white allergy. Thankfully, the deductible is met. We'll proceeed from here with the assumption that uncultured dairy is not well tolerated by her system and does exacerbate her eczema. Tomatoes seem to cause an acidity problem, so we'll be careful with those as well. Peanuts and shellfish were mild reactions, so we'll steer clear of those as we already were.. The great thing is that all of this has triggered greater attention on my part to what wasn't working in her diet, and she has gained a huge appetite and 24 ounces in 2 weeks! Such a good turnaround, and thanks to careful monitoring, diarrhea is under control and is no longer causing rashes.

Update to testing: blood tests taken the same day as the scratch testing indicated mild allergies to egg white and milk, and borderline for peanut butter and shellfish.

Dr. O' has finished the garden wall and is building the compost bin today. We are both really looking forward to gardening in our own space without any busybodies telling us how we do it wrong. Annoying. Trial and error, people. That and early tomato blight and people stealing our labeled tomato cages and trying to keep kids safe and out of other people's gardens and suspicions of human fertilizer (ew!) thoroughly burned us out on gardening in the Village! We just want to enjoy some peaceful gardening, dagnabbit! So we're putting in berry bushes and strawberry plants for a harvest next year along with some clearance plants to see what we can grow here with what's left of the season. I think I'll grow some wheat with the kids and thresh it together. I definitely need some fresh herbs out there in a pot so that I can grow them indoors in the winter. I miss having some around, and I won't pay $2+ for cut fresh herbs.

No idea if we'll do anything this weekend...