Saturday, March 31, 2012

Morning cartoons on the computer

Friday, March 30, 2012

Shh! Don't tell them, but they've been in there painting for over an hour, perfectly content.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Avril got a "big girl" bike for her birthday.  I can't even look at her face in this picture without my heart melting.  She felt so special yesterday.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Avril turns three today.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The baby is due in less than one week. I am very eager for labor to begin, but I am also waiting on nature to decide it's time, so in the meantime, I've been trying to stay busy doing things that will make the coming weeks easier on my family and myself.

One thing that I am glad I've had a little extra time to do is plan and prepare meals in advance. I was never able to do this before having the other two girls and I still remember feeling sad that Dwayne had nothing on hand to prepare for dinner when we first came home from the hospital, or feeling guilty that my in-laws were here helping me recover, but there was nothing for them to eat, or feeling tired and hungry on evenings when I was on my own with the kids again, Dwayne was on his way home and I was just wishing I could run down to the freezer for something, anything! to make to give my family so we could eat home cooked food, at our own table and be normal again.

So with some extra time this pregnancy, I planned several meals and shopped for groceries that Dwayne can grab and make on his own right after we come home with the baby, some meals that his parents will enjoy and that they can make with relative ease while Dwayne goes back to work and I am still recovering, and some meals that I can just grab and thaw and put in the oven once I am on my own with the kids again.

Almost all of the groceries needed for these meals can be frozen and thawed (even the rolls) or they come in cans or boxes, so it doesn't matter whether or not we use them for a few weeks. I tried to buy and prepare enough to make most of these dishes two or three times and if all goes as planned, most of them will provide some leftovers for lunch, too. Along with meals we receive from our good friends and pizzas we order here and there, I think we will be set for at least a few weeks.  Fingers crossed.

I have no idea what life after birth with two kids and a newborn will be like. I hope it will go much easier on me now.  Here's hoping all this prep will help facilitate the peace and joy I want to be free to feel after the birth of this new baby. 

The menu includes:

Italian meatballs and spaghetti

Cheese Ravioli and meat sauce

Stuffed shells and marinara

Chicken Alfredo

Chicken Cheddar Stuffing Casserole and Green Beans

Chicken and Rice

Kielbasa and Mac and Cheese

Chicken and Cheese Penne Casserole

Sausage Lasagna

Beef Enchiladas

White Chili

Frozen beef and hamburger helper

Pulled pork Shoulder, BBQ sauce and rolls

Pot Roast, Mashed Potatoes and Carrots

Ice pops.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Sunday, March 25, 2012

A few weeks ago, I was trying some of Norah's old sandals onto Avril's feet and as you can see, they were a bit too big for her. That much excess sandal past the tip of her toes will get caught on the ground and trip her over and over again as she runs around this summer. So I knew she would need a  smaller pair of sandals and since Norah never had a pair of sandals in the smaller size Avril needs, I would have to buy Avril a brand new pair for $10-20 dollars...

Bummer! since I saved all of Norah's old clothes and shoes that weren't too worn or stained in hopes that I would be able to reuse them with the next girl as she grew into them. But, it doesn't always work out, as in this case. Shoes have to fit well. For most things, like clothes, it doesn't really matter if things don't fit perfectly (so long as the season of the clothing fits the season outside) so it's usually in my best interest to save clothes to see if I can re-use them.

Note: These sandals will go back into a large Tupperware filled with Norah's old shoes and if Avril's foot happens to grow large enough by the end of the summer, these sandals will be waiting on her. If her feet don't grow fast enough, the sandals won't get used at all and they will have to wait for the next girl to come along before they get another chance to be re-worn.

In reusing clothes, I have had to develop a whole system of Tupperwares in our house to hold the stuff the girls aren't wearing, all labeled for certain sizes, all stored in their bedroom closets or in the storage/ laundry room downstairs. 

Right now, the Tupperware for clothes sizes birth to 3 months is almost totally empty since those clothes are waiting for the baby in the baby's dresser. There is one piece of clothing in the 0-3 month Tupperware and it's a snow suit. And, obviously, that piece of clothing won't be needed for this coming season, so it just lives in that Tupperware so as not to take up space in the dresser. That Tupperware lives in the baby's closet currently (see photo below), waiting to receive the pieces of clothing in that size as soon the baby outgrows them. The next Tupperwares for sizes 3-6 months and 6-9 are full of old, clean clothes, and they are also in the baby's closet so I can start adding those clothes into the baby's dresser as soon as the baby is big enough to wear them and as she outgrows the clothes in the smaller sizes and needs more pieces of clothing to wear.

If the clothes aren't anywhere near one of the girls' current size, they live in their respective Tupperware downstairs in our storage room and out of the way till they are needed again. Here is a photo of the Tupperware with the clothes Avril just outgrew "2T" and those she hasn't grown into just yet "Larger 4T."  Note: The clothes I call "smaller 4T" are in her dresser with 3T clothes right now and she's wearing them.

With three kids to clothe now, this process of saving clothes has gotten pretty complicated. I can't just throw the clothes Norah is done with into a black garbage bag and throw it in the storage room till Avril needs them. And I can't stuff Avril's old clothes into a bag for the baby and hope that I find that particular bag in time for the baby to wear that size, either. My life is too busy for that sort of disorganization.  Avril is constantly growing and if Norah's old clothes aren't already labeled and collected for me, Avril would probably outgrow them before I got around to finding the right trash bag with Norah's old clothes of the right sizes in it and then sorting through it to get out the pieces that match the current season of the year.

So I've had to develop this system of clothing storage for myself. And it's always being tweaked. I had to find a way to make saving clothes work efficiently. I am always handling clothes because of the laundry I do. And my girls are always growing, the seasons are always changing and clothes are constantly becoming obsolete or necessary again. So the system of re-using clothes had to "blend in" to my already busy days and be as easy to manage as an extra basket or two of laundry at any given time. And so far, my system is working alright.  For instance, one of Norah pairs of size 8 jeans are smaller than the other pairs for some reason. (Just like adult brands of clothes, one brand of kids clothes will be smaller than another, even if they share the same number size.) So those size 8 jeans got "too tight"quicker than the other size 8s that are in her drawer. With this system in place, I just pulled those tighter jeans out of the clean laundry, folded them and put them in the right Tupperware. And now those jeans are out of Norah's dresser, so she doesn't have to waste time putting them on to remember they are "too small."

I even have a Tupperware for clothes that don't fit my oldest, Norah, yet since I shop at thrift stores and often find it necessary to grab items when I find them even if they won't fit for a few more months. Notice the Tupperware labeled "10 medium and up" below. This is holding long sleeves shirts and jeans that Norah will use this coming winter, etc. As I collect them from the thrift store, I bring them home, wash, fold and put them in there for later.

I was telling another stay-at-home-mom-friend about how difficult saving and reusing clothes can be and she agreed and added that this is the kind of "hidden" work is what makes motherhood harder than any of us ever imagined it would be. I'm sure some people would read this post and think, "Why doesn't she just get rid of all the old clothes, save herself the trouble and buy everything her kids need when they need it?"

As a stay at home mom, I don't have to pay a daycare to care for my kids but I also forfeit having any extra income a job would provide. And, while taking care of my children is my main job, in doing that myself, Dwayne and I don't make the money we'd need to buy all new things for all our kids every season. Not that the families who have both parents working have the money to do buy everything new with every kid, either, but even more so it has become my "job within my job" to find ways to save money on things like clothes and shoes. I always tell myself that it's my job to save the money my husband makes, not to find ways to spend it like most people assume housewives do because of the wealthier, sillier ones on television. With that in mind, even something as mundane as storing clothes in Tupperwares becomes really significant. When I consider that it means I am making it easier for us to afford the ability to allow me to stay home and care for my kids myself, it makes the work of organizing it all worth the effort.

When I was a little kid, my parents used to make ice pops for me and my siblings in our deep freezer out of Kool Aide and Styrofoam cups. We'd sit out in the sunshine, on the edge of the sidewalk, in bathing suits, peeling and squeezing the Styrofoam off the blocks of red ice as they melted, savoring every sweet and tangy slurp. This is one of my most vivid memories as a kid so I do this at least once a spring/ summer for my kids, too. (I think my parents only ever made one batch of these ice pops because we didn't get them all summer long, only a few times and then we were "out.") It took me a few tries to find the exact flavor of drink mix to match the flavor I remembered from my childhood. I knew it was red, so I thought it had to be cherry or strawberry, but it turned out to be fruit punch so that's what I buy every time. My kids won't get a lot of the unhealthy things I got as a kid like Happy Meals with toys inside and I don't mind that at all. But I make a happy exception for Kool Aide ice pops.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

I caught Norah reading to Avril the other day.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Avril's starting to talk more and more correctly. In the meantime, I want to record all the words she uses for stuff so that we don't forget her sweet, unique, baby vocabulary.

Dog= Ruff
Cat= Yow
Norah = Baby
Horse= Yee haw
Shoes= Yous
Monster, skeletons or any wild animal with sharp teeth= Ha-me (cause that's the noise monsters make as they exhale and come after you slowly with their claws up)
Cars= Beeps
Sleep= Haaa (cause that's the deep-breathing sound people make when they are asleep)
Food= Nummies
Please= Eeez

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Bubbles in the sandbox

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


I got this new spring/ summer outfit for Avril at the thrift store for $4. The shirt and shorts are both Circo brand from Target, both in "like new" condition.

But these pieces didn't come home at the same time. The shirt was purchased several months ago, well before it was in season. The shorts were purchased just last week.

I get almost all the girls' clothes at the thrift store now and I am managing to find each kid several more pieces of clothing in their size each season and still spending less on two kids than I spent buying everything new for one kid.

If I go often, comb the shelves and buy things a little big or ahead of season, I find almost everything the girls need in the way of everyday clothes. I haven't had as much luck finding enough pajama sets or shoes in their sizes, though. So, half the time, I end up having to buy those items new. However, I have gotten lucky here and there. I found both the girls' dress shoes to match their Christmas dresses for less than $5 together. 

Before I went the way of thrift, I never understood how anyone on a budget could enjoy shopping for clothes and shoes. For me, it was downright stressful, grievous and worrisome to find and buy enough new clothes and new shoes every season, even when shopping at some of the cheapest stores. But now, I understand how shopping can be fun. It's enjoyable to be "rewarded" with a great find after persistently combing the shelves on a regular basis.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

It's realistic to expect that Norah will go at least a few weeks without "school" when the new baby arrives. She's going without school here and there already as often I get the urge to prepare for the baby and clean and organize the house.  So, right after the baby comes, I'll be depending on everyday activities to teach Norah what I'm not teaching her with the help of textbooks during that period of time. It's comforting that as I've been thinking about this, I've also been noticing just how much everyday things really can teach her (when I make her turn off the television and computer screens). Here are a few things I noticed just today.

We ran out of salt water for Norah's hermit crabs today. Last time we needed salt water, I just made it myself. But today, I made Norah mix one teaspoon of salt water conditioner to one cup of spring water to make the solution. Using 1/2 a teaspoon, she had to double that to get enough of the conditioner in each cup.

Later, I walked by her room and caught her counting and sorting her money from largest to smallest value. As she saw me pass, she asked how many cents a dime was worth just to be sure she was right.

She reads chapter books like this every day. These are the ones I found on her bedside table today, so she might be in the process of reading more than one, actually. And when she finishes a book, she always claims it's the best book yet and runs in to tell me the plot beginning to end. I give her a few minutes of my attention and dialogue with her about the book. She has no idea she's doing an "oral book report."

Norah made a simple tent with an old bed sheet and a towel when we went out to play in the yard today. I found the book A Kid's Guide to Building Forts at the thrift store a few days ago, bought it, brought it home and only remembered it today. She read it and we are planning to make one of the forts in the book when we get all the right supplies. 

Late in the afternoon, Avril found a craft in a book and asked Norah to help her with it meaning she pointed at it and said, "Baby! Help me? Make a ha-me?" Norah gathered what they needed to make these shark puppets and built one for each of them.

That's only a sampling of the kind of stuff she does when we don't do lessons and the television is off.  I think she'll be just fine without "school" for a few weeks.  Of course, we'll start up again when the baby is settled and I've recovered.

Monday, March 19, 2012

"Norah, Can you go get the clothes out of the dryer and bring them to me?"

"Norah, You need to pause your movie and come unload the dishwasher now."

"Norah, Please help your sister pick up those puzzles...again."

"Ugh. Norah, I spilled some spaghetti sauce. Will you get a wipe and clean it up, please? I'm sorry, baby. I just can't bend over to do it myself right now. Thanks."

"Norah, Will you please, please, please bring me a glass of ice water? Awesome."

We're depending on Norah more and more these days. She's so capable and helpful and usually has the most easy going spirit about dropping what she's doing to help us anytime we call on her. Of course, she complains sometimes. (So does her mom sometimes.) But even as she complains, she's usually on her way toward the chore we've asked her to do to do it anyway. (So am I, usually.) And she always apologies sincerely when we correct her for her attitude. She acknowledges that she's not right in heart when she isn't helpful toward her loved ones.

Up to now, it felt natural and good for us to expect her help around the house without being compensated since she was a serving as a part of the family, since we all work together, her dad always helping, too, since she was so young and didn't even understand money, since we were doing right by her as parents in training her to take care of herself, her possessions and understand more about what it takes to live a well ordered life in a well ordered home, etc. Even after we started asking her to help her little sister more and more over the past months, we felt that we were teaching her to consider the needs of others, not just sitting around when someone she loves could use her help with something like their coat or bag, etc. We just expected her to help because it was "right."

But, at this point, she's so constantly called upon to help with stuff she would have never had to help with because both her parents are busy with baby preparations and I am so much less capable of getting up and down and bending over, that Dwayne and I looked at each other at the exact same moment a few days ago and agreed that Norah should begin to be compensated for all she does. And we were both eager to reward her for the helpful spirit she has developed. She is truly a such blessing to us right now. I actually pray that God will notice her heart and service and bless her in His own unique way.

And, with her allowance has come some really good discussions with her dad about money and how to use it. I am watching my husband come alive teaching her these truths. It's like having another teacher in the house and it's fun to witness.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

It's that time of year again. The Girl Scouts are selling their cookies. We usually indulge in at least one box of Samoas and Thin Mints.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Once it's warm enough every spring, we pull the sand toys out of storage and greet the sandbox after the long separation all winter.  In this picture, the girls had collected hickory nuts in Avril's gardening apron from all over the yard and decorated their "castle" with them.

Compare the picture above with the one below. I took this on the first spring day outside after we moved into this house, back when Norah was younger than Avril is now.  Time flies.  

Friday, March 16, 2012

Here's a recent picture of the belly from my point of view. I was listening to some music while I watched the girls play in the sandbox. I needed to have one ear open to hear what was going on around me, so I rested one of my headphones on my belly. The baby seemed to respond to the music at times.

Disclaimer: I might not be able to blog everyday for a while. As you can see, I am very close to delivering this baby. If nothing else, I will try to keep posting photos of the girls and the baby, once she arrives. I know my family enjoys them. But I reserve the right to disappear for a while if necessary. I have no idea what life will be like with a newborn and two other kids.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Avril peeks in at me through the screen door wearing 3D glasses and drawing with 3D chalk.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Another thrift store find, this geography kit was only $2 brand new. It included a book, an inflatable globe and stickers.

The book has really neat activities here and there. This activity showed how ancient people could tell the world was round. Norah kept the Lego figure touching the globe and moved it forward. The Lego figure's legs disappeared, then his torso, then finally his head. And, in the same way, ancient people watched through spy glasses as ships disappeared hull to sail, not all at once, proving their was a curve in the horizon.

At the end of each chapter, you place stickers on the globe. We're a few chapters into the book and the book is short, so we'll finish in a few days. This is making for an interesting addition to our regular routine of study.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

More and more, Avril insists on being a part of what's going on at the kitchen table. And more and more, I find it difficult to exile her to another room while Norah and I do lessons. Avril's getting older so she seems more aware of the fact that mom and Norah are doing something special together and she is not a part of it. When she cries as she leaves the room to go play alone, her tears are genuine now, so it's difficult not to sympathize with her. Therefore, I have been letting her stay near us more often. Most of the time, I have activities for her to do at the table or even under the table that keep her close by but busy. But, as you can see, there are times, however brief, when she can be very distracting. When that's happening, I focus on training Norah who is old enough now to handle it, to just ignore her sister and keep working. I've heard other home school moms say their toddlers were a challenge like this so this stage isn't taking me by complete surprise. Such is the nature of doing school where you live. We will just keep plugging away, doing our best every day till this challenge passes and a new one like a nursing infant/ third child takes its place.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

When I pictured what my kid's rooms would look like, I pictured quaint comforter sets that match the paint on the walls that match the curtains that match the rugs on the floor. You know what I mean. I wanted a picture from the Pottery Barn catalog. But my reality is very different than what I imagined.

Avril prefers to sleep with a stuffed crocodile as her pillow. (Dwayne won this crocodile for me on our honeymoon, by the way.) She also prefers this throw over the expensive quilt that matches her bedroom set. (My mom bought her this throw when we were visiting her in South Carolina.) How do I know she really prefers this stuff since she doesn't talk that much? Because when this crocodile isn't in her bed, she asks for it, pointing to where it should be. "Ha-me?" That's her word for any animal with sharp teeth. And when I put the nice quilt that goes with her bedroom set over her, she kicks it off and makes a puking sound and then points to this blanket instead.

Now, I could decide to make my kids use the blankets I choose, the ones that are all matchy-mathcy. But I have come to feel that exerting my will over them in every single little decision is just oppressive. I don't have to have my way in every single little thing, just when it's really important.

And, at one point, having their blankets matching their curtains matching their rugs was important to me, but it just isn't anymore. It was a youthful fantasy. Now, I focus more on the quality of what goes on in their room, on the spirit of my whole home, on what we are doing and how we are feeling, over what anything looks like.

And just look at Avril with that crocodile under her head! She's precious! I think of all the joy I'd be missing if I made her use a traditional pillow. (Dwayne says he used a pillow in the shape of a school bus when he was a little boy.) This miss-matched reality is much better than anything I ever imagined anyway.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

I set out to make the perfect chili the other day.  Perfect according to me, that is. I was going for a chili similar to one my best friend's mom always made while we were growing up or maybe a chili just a little more hearty than the one she always made. I think I came close to what I was going for, to my idea of perfect. Here's what I did.

I started by browning 1 1/2 lbs. of ground beef (80/20) in my cast iron dutch oven.  Once brown, I scooped the beef out onto a plate, leaving the grease in the bottom of the pot.  To that grease, I added a small, chopped, white onion and let it cook. Then I sprinkled in a whole bunch of cumin, maybe a 1/4 teaspoon, half as much chili powder and pinch of Cayenne pepper and about half a teaspoon of salt and stirred it around with the onions.  I cooked the onions in the grease and spices till they were translucent.

Next, I added two 28 ounce cans of whole tomatoes and their juice, crushing the tomatoes one at a time as they went in. Warning: Crushing whole tomatoes is messy business. They're like little bombs so wear an apron.

Then I drained and rinsed three cans of kidney beans, each a different color or size and added all those beans to the tomato- onion- spice mixture. There didn't seem to be enough juice, so I filled one of the empty cans with water and added that to the pot till it looked like enough broth to me.  Then I added another approx. 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/8 teaspoon chili powder, a pinch of Cayenne pepper and another approx. half a teaspoon of salt and stirred.

I let that simmer for a little bit then I added the beef back to the pot along with yet another 1/4 teaspoon cumin, 1/8 teaspoon chili powder, another pinch of Cayenne and another half a teaspoon of salt.  I let all that simmer, stirring occasionally, while I made cornbread.

With that, my chili turned out pretty near perfect, in my opinion. Both my girls had seconds and Dwayne said he liked it and he isn't one to just blow smoke. 

Friday, March 9, 2012

The girls display their Davy Crockett coloring sheets.

Sometimes I will add activities to our Writing With Ease program. For example, when our writing lessons used excerpts from the book Davy Crockett: Young Rifleman, we listened to The Ballad of Davy Crockett and the girls danced around, then we listened to his autobiography while the girls colored a free picture of Crockett that I got online. We don't do this with every book our writing program uses excerpts from, but when we do this "extra" stuff, it certainly makes home school more interesting and fun.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Avril is a very pleasant kitchen companion. She is quite content to just watch me work while her sister is off doing something else. She doesn't distract me (much). I will often give her a little snack of pretzels or fruit to munch on while she "helps Momma." This makes her feel really special. I let her taste things here and there and I let her steal as much shredded cheese as she wants from my pile if I happen to be shredding cheese. She loves shredded cheese. I really enjoy this time with Avril. It's fast becoming one my favorite things to do with her.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

I found this like-new dry erase book at the thrift store and now it's one of Avril's new favorite things to do.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

While Norah's doing school work at the kitchen table, Avril will steal a pencil from Norah's basket and crawl under the dining room table and draw on a spare pad of her dad's graph paper.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Scrubbing dishes with Momma

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Avril at dinner

This was another science experiment in our chapter on digestion. To show how enzymes help digest our food, we put slices of ham into jars with water and added the enzyme papain (a.k.a. meat tenderizer) to one jar.

After two days, we compared the ham in the jar of just water (top) with the ham in the jar with papain (bottom). 

The jars sat on my kitchen counter for a few days and I didn't smell anything amiss. (I never thought I'd agree to have science experiments on my kitchen counters, but like many other things I said "never" about in the past, I am doing it all the time now.) However, when we opened the lids to discard the ham, it smelled really, really bad.  Just be warned.   

Saturday, March 3, 2012

1. Done with or marked by full consciousness of the nature and effects; intentional
2. Arising from or marked by careful consideration
3. Unhurried in action, movement, or manner, as if trying to avoid error

I decided to limit my daughter's access to television, deliberately. Several people just dismiss my decision to limit television because they assume I'm fearful about modern culture's influence on my daughter, etc. But that's not it, at least not entirely. I am conscious that television influences kids and characters on television model behaviors and ideals I probably don't want my kids to emulate, but I am even more conscious of television's basic affect on our home's environment. I wanted to create a place where my daughter would find it easy to read and televisions just aren't conducive to that.

Have you ever seen a television on inside a library or a bookstore? I see them inside bars and restaurants all the time, but never in libraries or bookstores. I'm sure this is also a deliberate choice by the bookstore owners and librarians because they understand that television distracts people from focusing on books. Even people who really enjoy reading would find it next to impossible to focus on books if a newscaster comes on a television screen above their heads while they were reading.

I think many parents assume wrongly that if their child is a "reader," if he enjoys reading, he will stop whatever he is doing and choose to read a book instead, regardless of the fact that the television is on all the time. That may be true for some kids and some grown ups at random times, but it isn't true for most people most of the time, even those who consider themselves "readers."

People marvel at how much my daughter reads. But I don't marvel at it because I understand it is a direct result of deliberate decisions on my part. I wanted my daughter to be free to read here most of the day. By turning off the t.v. deliberately, I've created a home environment that more closely resembles a library than a restaurant and therefore, Norah is more likely to read.

Friday, March 2, 2012

A science experiment to show how the stomach churns up food

A plastic bag with bread and water inside another plastic bag

Squish till it's "digested."