Wednesday, September 30, 2009

XYZ is for "Examine your Zipper."

Norah's been forgetful and clumsy lately. At breakfast, as she turns to look at the piece of cereal she dropped on her chair, she hits the bowl with her elbow and spills the whole thing on the floor, she trips over her shoes while putting on her pants and then lands on top of her dollhouse, she drenches herself almost every time she takes a drink of water from a bottle, she can't seem to figure out that you don't have to throw your head all the way back to get the water to come out, but more often than anything else these days, she forgets to zip up her pants. It happens all the time. I think it must be a five-year-old thing.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

She's rolling over, but not back. She's sits up, but not all by herself. She's saying words like "Ba, ba, baba" and "Ma, ma, mama." Besides nursing like a champ and eating a small portion of cereal, she's downing at least one jar of baby food every day. And, she gets really mad when the jar gets empty. She likes to blow spit bubbles and make toot noises with her mouth. She always sucks on her fingers like she just ate a chicken leg or rack of ribs or something. When you are holding her, she tries to grab your face and put the whole thing in her mouth at once. And, while she does this she makes the exact same sound that tigers do when they are eating their prey. She'll smile at you and laugh the sweetest little laugh, but not right away. She makes you work for it. She's our Avril.

Monday, September 28, 2009

We had some left over frosting after celebrating Norah's birthday. Dwayne kept stealing a finger-full of it anytime he opened the fridge throughout last week. I thought that was pretty pitiful and felt sorry for him, so I came up with what I thought would be a solution. Saturday morning, after breakfast, I decided to make some mini cupcakes with a mix I have had in the pantry for several months. Norah helped me gladly. But, when Dwayne got up and saw what we were doing, he was disappointed. He said he knew Norah and I would eat the icing with cupcakes, but as long as there were no cupcakes, he'd have the icing all to himself. Ha! But, we finished baking them anyway. And, Saturday night, after we got home and made and ate dinner, we put all the cupcakes on the lazy-Susan in the middle of the table and decorated them together. Turns out, bite sized cupcakes are pretty irresistible. So, I hurried over to our neighbor's house with a plate full even though the sun had just set, knowing that if I delayed till morning, they might all be gone before we had a chance to share them.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Have you ever been so terrified you couldn't function? I was that terrified earlier today.

We have a formal wedding and reception to go to this Thursday and I found a pretty dress, but to look nice in it, I need a tan. I can't go to the beach here in Connecticut. It's been way to cold for that for at least a month now, so I am going to the tanning booth. But, I had never been tanning before, even for my own wedding, so the last two days were my first experience with the process and turns it out that I am terrified of it.

You know that feeling you get right before you get locked into your seat on a roller coaster? That's nothing compared to the panic I've felt the last two days. I literally have to force myself to go through with it, since I know going five times in my life won't kill me... will it?

My knees knock, I can hardly breath and I am extremely close to a panic attack right before they turn on the machines... Keep that in mind as I tell you what happened earlier today on my second trip to the tanning salon.

I took Dwayne and the kids along. I joked that I needed them there for moral support and just in case I screamed. But, really, I just thought we'd all stop by there together and then get right on with our day once I was done. Turns out I was right... about the first thing.

The machine turned on before I was in it, before I had my eye protection on, even before I had my special sun block on in full. The goggles I was given didn't have a strap, since the bed was horizontal and the goggles are supposed to just lay on your face. I was already scared before the machine turned on early, so I freaked out when it came on and couldn't think clear enough to hold my goggles with one hand and open my eyes through the special lenses to find the switch to turn the machine off with the other... When Dwayne found me, after I'd been yelling for at least a minute, I was cowering in the corner of the room naked, with my T-shirt shielding my eyes. He managed to convince the lady to turn the machine off after that. Why she didn't hear me asking her to do the same thing so loudly, I don't know.

I immediately got dressed and was ready to demand a refund, leave and never come back, but the lady convinced me to try the standing bed pictured above. Since the glasses she gave me for that bed would stay on with a strap, allowing me to use my arms and since the OFF button was so clearly labeled, I agreed. That bed wasn't as bad, since I could stand, raise my arms and move around and it didn't feel so much like a coffin, but I still have the shakes thinking about having to go again tomorrow. Even with the extra space in the standing machine, the idea of the artificial lights really bothers me, it feels so unnatural to harm myself so I can be more "beautiful." I honestly don't know if I can go through with it again.

Doesn't Neutrogena make a really nice self-tanning lotion?
"Look at all the black eyes!" -Norah

Friday, September 25, 2009

I made Chrunchy Tilapia, Lemon Tartar Sauce and Creamed Spinach for dinner this evening. I was eight months pregnant with Norah the last time I made fish. At that point, we were eating salmon at least once a week, but one night, I pulled some out of the fridge and the smell of it made me gag. The memories of the tremors I got are just now beginning to dim enough for me to leave them behind and start handling raw fish again. It's like I've been holding my nose for five years and I am finally able to breath in deep again. I am going to try and add fish like this to our menu at least once every two weeks. It's just so good for us. I've felt for some time that we eat way too much chicken or rice and I need to add more meat varieties and green to our diet. In fact, this meal was so perfectly nutritious, after only one plate and six hours, I am still not hungry.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Our Book It! awards came in the mail yesterday. Did you do this when you were in school? I wanted to, but I was never able to read enough books to get the free pizzas. These days, homeschoolers can sign up, too! Go here and fill out the form to receive an email reminder when the sign-ups come around again, sometime in March of next year.

The program allows you to set your own goal for your kid. We've decided that Norah will have to read twenty pages in her phonics textbook or twenty Bob's Books or some combination of the two to get one of these coupons. At the end of the month, that means she will have to read one or two more pages and books a week than she averages right now. With Dwayne's help, I made this nifty check list so Norah can keep track of her progress herself.

Feel free to double click on the image above, right click and "Save file as..." and save this to your own computer to use for yourself. Starting October 1, we will print this on card stock, trim it with scissors so we can take off all the excess borders and keep the card with her phonics books, that way she will be able to check off one star each time she finishes something. I'm hoping this will motivate her to read more than just what she is assigned. And, when a month's twenty stars are all checked off, we'll go get her a pizza for lunch... ummm... that is... as soon as the next pay day comes after we finish checking the twenty! Yay!

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Dwayne surprised me with thirty red roses for my birthday. I went in to work at the YMCA and nearly jumped back when the ladies yelled, "Surprise!" as I walked through the door. They passed me the flowers over the front desk along with a love note. I felt like a beauty queen carrying them around on my arm. I had a strange mixture of pride and embarrassment and fought hard to keep a smirk off my face till I got home and was able to grin as big as I wanted...and kiss him as hard as I wanted.

It may be hard to believe, but this was the first time Dwayne had ever given me flowers. He never had to buy these kinds of gifts to convince me he was serious about me when we were dating. We both knew we were getting married right away, so he skipped that step and just bought a ring instead. I didn't complain. There was no time to fool around with roses and chocolates and whatnot. We had a wedding to pay for! But, now, we have all the time for romance we want... Married people have all the fun, you know.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Norah's friend Providence does a worksheet at our table.

Norah's been complaining about being lonely, not just complaining, but crying in my arms. I saw this coming. I feared it might happen, since Norah is actually a very healthy kid socially and loves people of all ages and types outside our family.

I know some idiots out there could use what I've just admitted to undermine my decision to home school. I mention it because I think it could help other homeschooling families, since I am sure my daughter isn't the only kid who has ever felt this way. The "socialization issue" is something most homeschooling parents scoff at and with good reason. Kids don't need countless silly, surface-level friendships to be happy and healthy. They need a few, meaningful friendships and that is what Norah has expressed a desire for.

I'm going against my inclination to sweep this under the rug and blogging about it even though it's a little uncomfortable. But, I'm convinced Norah's dilemma is not unique to home schooled children. We all know that school kids have the same issues all the time. If a child doesn't connect with anyone else in their class and is left to sit alone at lunch or recess, they are just as lonely and isolated, if not more so, since they are separated from their loved ones all day. And, while I think public school would certainly increase Norah's chances of finding a friend, I am not convinced that friend would be the kind she is expressing a desire for anyway.

We've been a part of a home school co-op for some time and we try to meet with that group every other week or so, but for Norah, that just wasn't cutting it. She has been craving more companionship. I could tell her to suck it up or just ignore her and hope her loneliness passes, but it's not like she is asking for something immoral or dangerous and I hate to see her suffer when I could do something to fix the situation. So, I've come up with a creative solution to ease her isolation and give her a "classmate" on a regular basis.

Starting last week, Providence, one of her best friends from church, has been coming over one afternoon a week and staying till the next. When she is here, we include Providence in all our regular plans for those days, from meals to games to reading time to our home-made swim lessons to school work. I sit in between them and while Norah does her lessons, I tutor Providence.

Providence's mom home schools her like I home school Norah, and she is a good friend of mine from church. She is being gracious enough to share her daughter with mine and somehow, she trusts me enough to give up two days of her own instruction time so they can be together, which is huge. It's a stretch for me to have three kids on those days, but a blessing, too, since I get to use my creativity and smarts to bless another kid and through it, our family is growing in friendship and sharing our lives with another most-beloved family.

And, Norah didn't complain about being lonely even once in this last week. Providence is due for another overnight visit today. So, our socialization "problem" is solved.

The girls pose after an hour at the YMCA pool.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Even when the trees have just surrendered to the harvest time
Forfeiting their leaves in late September and sending us inside
Still I notice when change begins and I am braced for colder winds
I will offer thanks for what has been and what's to come
You are autumn.

-More lyrics from Nichole Nordeman's song "Every Season"

Sunday, September 20, 2009

After the party yesterday, Dwayne put Norah's bike together. My parents gave it to her for her birthday and had it sent to her in the mail.

She's finally big enough and it's finally chilly enough to wear the dark pink sweatshirt Uncle Donnie bought Norah last Christmas. She loves it.

She rode up our street. And, then got off and walked the bike to the park with my help, since the traffic goes so fast on East Mountain. Then, she rode around our park's bike trail once. She only fell once.

She took it slow, stopping often to test her breaks, to fix her hair, to pick her nose and to use her hands to chat. Don't you know? The hardest part about learning to ride a bike is training yourself not to talk with your hands and to learn to carry on a conversation and pay attention to where you are going at the same time...

Needless to day, she ran off the path a lot. And, as she sped up going down hill off the slopes on the sides of the path, she would talk faster so she could hurry up and finish her sentence before concentrating on stopping the bike.

The view from the path out over our reservoir as the sun goes down.

Dwayne stayed home with the baby so I could take her. He'll be the one running next to her when she tries to ride without the training wheels next year, but I can handle it for now.

Thanks, Grandma, Grandpa and Loretta, for coordinating the whole mess. You guys really came through and in perfect time. She'll remember this birthday forever!

Saturday, September 19, 2009

We had Norah's birthday party today. We used our neighborhood park for the festivities. The day was bright and beautiful, but a cool breeze made it chilly in the shade under the gazebo. Norah and her friends had pizza and cold drinks from the cooler, then played in the park. Later, Norah opened her gifts and gave her guests their goodie bags. We sang, had cake and ice cream, then the kids played some more until it was time to go.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Here's the review I promised:

Andrew Peterson's new book North! or Be Eaten is a pleasure. I found this second book in the Wingfeather saga fun, rich, full of suspense, mystery, beauty and most of all, wit. This book, like many of Peterson's songs, seems to be something that can be gleaned from again and again.

Peterson's characters are as real as they come. I often wondered if I already knew one or two of them from somewhere. Like real people, the qualities that make them lovable in one mood can make them annoying in another. And, Peterson doesn't give the Igiby's a pass because they are the heroes and are on the right side of the story's crisis. They get their hands dirty, they're in real danger, they bleed, they have to pant when they get to the top of the hills they climb and they make mistakes.

The character's are faced with decisions that model reality, those that have less to do with what is right and wrong absolutely and more to do with what is right in this situation or what could be even better. If they choose what is best for others over what is best for themselves, they face the negative consequences but are usually rewarded with more blessing in the end over that choice. The story explores themes like sacrifice, loyalty, family, persistence, and faith and in every moral lesson, I think Peterson is spot on.

I imagine Peterson created this world of fiction to illustrate how The Maker, as the books' characters call Him, works in both our world and theirs. One character, for example, is humble about his mistakes, but he is brought even lower, broken and forced to reckon with his past. But, in the same story, another character is proud in his sins and shows nothing but contempt for others. He is left to do as he pleases and he simply grows more and more proud. It seems unfair, but if you examine the outcomes closer, you see the reckoning serves to set the righteous man free from his past once and for all, while the proud man, though he appears to be free, is left to suffer with the same corrupt heart he has always had.

I give this book two! thumbs! up! and if anyone gives it a poor review, I say, in the words of the book's beloved Oskar Tilling, that person "Wouldn't know a good book from a bad tooth."

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Norah turned five last Sunday. Her party was already planned for this coming Saturday, but we didn't want her day to go by without any acknowledgment, so we had a small celebration at home after dinner.

Mrs. Mahaffey, a friend's mom, finally agreed to give me her famous cake and icing recipe. I made Norah a small cake with it, died the icing pink and let Norah help me sprinkle edible glitter all over the top and sides.

I've been asking Mrs. Mahaffey for her cake recipe since I was fifteen, before I even had a recipe box to keep it in, when she would bring her cakes to church for special occasions. She gave me her cheese ball recipe and her chocolate delight recipe years ago, but she would never agree to part with her cake recipe, not for anything. But, just like I had to wait until I was twenty to help her and the other women in the church kitchen without being shooed out, it is fitting that I had to turn thirty to get this cherished recipe. I feel like I have earned it. And, don't even think about asking me for it. I'm not parting with it for anything now, either. I had to wait and beg for this recipe so much for so long, I feel like Jacob wanting Rachel for a wife, having to settle for Leah (the cheese ball) and having to work for Laban seven years, then seven more... which, come to think of it, is just about how long I had to wait for this recipe. I don't know if Mrs. Mahaffey planned it that way, but the years "felt like a day" because I love this cake so much! All that to say, I'm glad I have it now. I don't think I'll ever use a cake-in-the-box again.

Norah got five gifts this year, since she turned five. We always give her one gift for each year she's celebrating. And, since we are frugal, that naturally means the gifts tend to get smaller as her age goes up. When I explain this to people, they don't hear me say the gifts get smaller and always ask me what I'll do when she turns sixteen. I tell them I plan to get her purse with fifteen tubes of lipstick or a car with fifteen air fresheners. You get the idea.

This year, she got Connect Four, a set of 120 different colored crayons, two new outfits for her Barbie, and the last gift was empty with the words, "You get to pick!" written on the inside of the paper. And, since she is reading now, she was able to read the note and surprised herself. After that, we all hopped into the Jeep and took her to Toys R' Us. She picked out a princess castle for her last gift.

Happy Birthday, Norah! I can't believe my baby is five!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Our neighbor's gave Norah a nest they found in their elderly mother's tree.

Oh, if you're a bird, be an early bird
And catch the worm for your breakfast plate.
If you're a bird, be an early bird-
But if you're a worm, sleep late.

-Shel Silverstein

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

So long as he treats her like a princess,
a little girl doesn't care that her father isn't king.

-Original by me.

Inspired by our poor friend Migery Sow.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Do you see the grays?

I turn thirty today.

I spoke to my brother on the phone just yesterday, but he wouldn't wish me a Happy Birthday. He told me, half-teasing, that he and the rest of my family have agreed to do me a favor and "forget" to acknowledge my birthday this year and every year from now on, since they assume that my birthday will be a sore subject to me this year... and every year from now on.

When I told him I didn't mind turning thirty, he scoffed at me, a little. He must have thought I was just saying so because I had to, to save face. He seemed to try and change the subject. I thought that was sweet of him and a little out of character, since he usually doesn't avoid anything that might make me uncomfortable. But, in truth and like I tried to tell him, I don't mind growing older. Not in the sense that he probably thinks I do, in the "My boobs are sagging, my hair is turning gray and I need some miracle face cream" kind of way. I'm doing what I can to stave off the inevitable, I'm seeing a personal trainer and trying to eat my veggies, but I don't have a lot of time to really fret about superficial things like how many wrinkles I have. Some people might blame that on my being so busy, but I like to think my life is just too full.

I only mind growing older because it means I have less life to live here on earth. I love this life. I look back and with God's grace, I have no regrets. I look around and take pride and joy in my life's work. I look forward and know that if God allows me to live long enough, I will embrace the privileges old age will bring me, like seeing my children have children or sharing then-ancient jokes with my husband as we rock our grand babies to sleep. As long as I've known Him, I have found my delight in the Lord and He has given me the desires of my heart.

With so many people almost apologizing to me in the days leading up to this birthday, with so much of our value coming from how we look and with so many women spending so much just to look just a little younger for just a little longer, I've been wondering if it is even possible for a woman to grow old gracefully? Could anyone ever actually be free to not care that she is no longer the fairest of them all? It think so. I know a little passage of Scripture that has brought me great comfort during this last year of my twenties and as I see my reflection changing when I have a second to glance in the mirror. You may know it. It says that if a woman is truly virtuous, if strength and dignity are her clothing, she can actually smile at her future. Proverbs 30: 10-31

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Norah playing "dress up" with a wedding costume her Grandma Evans sent in the mail. She won't be getting married till she's at least thirty. And, she won't even notice boys till she's able to do something about them... Right?!

The following post was written by my husband who will be cleaning his shot gun (or guns) when that first date arrives to pick Norah up (when she's thirty). He cleans his guns periodically now, but not because they need it, really. He's just rehearsing for later in life (much later).

Disclaimer: I originally asked my wonderful wife (the keeper of this blog) if I could guest post occasionally. I wanted a place to share some thoughts from my perspective on our family, God and life on the same platform so her readers (mostly family) would be able to have a "one-stop-shop" experience. I'm not sure what form those will take, but I am excited to see it happening.

I am hoping Google's servers crash and burn long before Norah or Avril have a chance to hold me to this, but I think this article, or at least its premise, is dead on, and is something I have said for years.

I do not want to recap the whole article, as I would rather have you read it, even if it is a bit long. I will only say this. I find it against the character of God to PURPOSEFULLY build us with incredibly strong sex drives at a young age only to say do not use it. It simply does not fit with the God I know. He does not design for no purpose. Instead, I think that sex drive is designed to unify two people, and to produce offspring, both of which are only possible under God's plan in the context of marriage. This does not minimize the directive to stay chaste if you are not married, but it is the only logical conclusion I can come up with to why sex drives are so strong so young.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

This was my drawing the day Norah and I followed Drawing With Children's instructions for creating a montage of tropical birds. I turned it into a coloring sheet for Norah and decided to share with you, too.

Double click on the black and white image above to make it large. Save image as... to your desktop to have a printable version saved to your computer.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Use the day-old balloons you got at restaurants to teach your preschooler how to catch. The balloons drag in the air just enough to give little ones, who are too slow for balls, time to catch them.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

One of Norah's best friend's had her birthday party at Chuck e Cheese's last weekend. Even though we live nearby, we had never been, so Norah had a great time. She said, "This day and the day we went to Dutch Wonderland are the two best days of my life."

This was her favorite ride: Ken Chuck e Derby.

Her first time playing ski ball.

Another one of her favorites, she loved knocking over the ducks with the gloved fist.

Avril and Daddy hang out and watch all the madness.

Her beloved friend from church, the birthday girl.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Below is a cute poem we found in my mom's poetry file. Norah might have been inspired by it, because I caught her wearing her dad's shoes a little while after we read the poem, so I snapped a picture of her. It looks like we planned it, but I swear we didn't.


by Anonymous

My father has a pair of shoes
So beautiful to see.
I want to wear my father's shoes.
They are too big for me.

My baby brother has a pair
As cunning as can be.
My feet won't go into that pair.
They are too small for me.

There's only one thing that I can do
Till I get small or grown.
If I want to have some fitting shoes
I'll have to wear my own.


Tuesday, September 8, 2009

My homeschooling mom-friend from New Hampshire and her four kids came to visit last week. She and the kids had other friends to meet up with for dinner each afternoon, but we enjoyed visiting with them at night when they got back and and during the days. The kids had a great time playing around the house and at the park.

Sarah played dress up with Norah.

John climbed our tree out front a lot.

Their youngest, Timothy, was never still, so I couldn't get an un-fuzzy picture of him to save my life.

Their oldest, Rachel, had watermelon at the park. She wanted to play Clue all the time and I was happy to oblige her. I love that game!

As always, Norah enjoyed the company and as always,
she cried bitterly when her friends were gone.

Look at those chubby thighs and those blue eyes and that pretty little mouth...
She's got to be the prettiest baby in whole wide world!
One could do worse than be a swinger of birches.
-Robert Frost

Thanks for the visit, Archibalds.
Come again soon... and bring your school books, so you can stay longer.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Consider making a collection of your favorite poems.

In addition to the picture file she gave us a while back, my mom has a poetry file or a collection of children's poems she had to complete for her college course work in education. Her professor meant for her to use the pictures and poems as aids to teach the kids in her future classrooms. I am sure neither he nor my mom ever imagined that almost thirty years later, her grandchildren would be using those materials she collected to homeschool.

My mom has been looking hard for her poetry collection and she finally found one of her files a few weeks ago and my sister mailed it to us a few days ago. Norah and I sat down and read several of the poems right away. I plan to transfer the poems to a larger binder so I can add new ones to the collection as we find them, just like I add new pictures to my mom's picture file as we find them. Thanks, Mom. We treasure your work. It is almost thirty years later, but we are putting it to good use!