Thursday, January 24, 2008


Stuart came home from work on this cold, dry evening complaining of sore lips. "It feels like my WHOLE bottom lip is a cold sore. What do you think I should do?"

After a big glass of water and glob of lip balm he was back to normal but somehow that minor event led to this discussion around the dinner table.

"Doctor, there's something horribly wrong with my lip. What do you suggest?"

"I'll write you a prescription for Avegrasil. It was just approved by the FDA. Give it a try. If it doesn't work, come back in three weeks and I'll give you some more."

Directions for taking Avegrasil:
Do not take with food or on an empty stomach. Do not lick lips.

Side effects may include but are not limited to: blisters, leprosy and spontaneous human combustion.

The discussion ended when Faith toodled. She did not offer the customary, "Excuse me" but explained herself with, "I've been taking Avegrasil.

Chapped lips anyone? Try Avegrasil. It won't cure what ails you, but we'll make millions.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Math Work

Charlie wants to be big. Big people doing big things tower over him and he wants to join in. He sees the girls climb on the swing and pump themselves skyward. The swing is too high for him to reach and he doesn’t know how to pump. “Lift me! Push me! Swing me!” he cries. Sometimes we do and sometimes we’re busy. When we push, he cries if we stop and when we don’t push he cries out of sheer frustration. He knows too much about how the world works because the big kids show him. But often he can’t join in just because he’s three. It’s not easy to be three when everyone else is six and seven and higher numbers than he has fingers to count.

We’ve bent a lot of rules to accommodate this youngest child. All of the other kids had to be as tall as Stuart’s waist before they could chew gum but how do you pass out six sticks of gum and say, “No, Charlie not until you’re as tall as Papa’s belt.”?

He gets to stay up late, too, because the sounds of game playing and story reading would make him cry into his pillow if six of us visited around the fire in the evening after we shipped him off to bed. So he goes to bed and gets up with the rest of us. Sometimes he sleeps in a little in the morning because running with the older crowd is tiring. But he never sleeps in on Saturdays. On Saturdays he gets up extra early, sometimes before the sun comes up, to make sure he gets a good amount of time with Link. He and Link have to conquer the world before Mama and Papa get out of bed and make him turn off the Game Cube until the next Saturday.

But we do have limits:

“No Charlie. You can’t answer the telephone until you’re four. None of us could answer it until we were four. Mama has to teach you what buttons to push and what to say.”

“No Charlie. I’m not going to cut your tooth out so you can have an ice cream date. You have to wait until it falls out.”

“No Charlie. You can’t have my credit card to buy some candy.”

Still he pushes to conquer the territory the other kids have mapped out before him. He has decided it’s time for school. “Do my maff liv me! Do my hard maff!” Charlie beats on the shower door trying to coax me out to help him with the pages of an unused third grade math book he discovered mixed among the kids' school books.

“Charlie, I can’t! I’m in the shower. We’ll do some pages after breakfast.” And we do but by page four he’s supposed to know how to count to twenty and he can only count, “…seven, eight, eleven.” It’s just too hard. We plug on though, passing the days until the next trip to Wal Mart where I plunk three preschool workbooks in the cart.

“Do my maff liv me!” He demands from his car seat, the three books spread over his lap.

“I can’t, Charlie. I’m driving! When we get home I will.”

We lay a book open on the kitchen table and talk about what comes first and second and third. We trace A for apple and circle 3 cows and Charlie feels just a little bit bigger than he did this morning.

A few days ago, I received a link to this You Tube video in my e-mail. It’s not Charlie but it sure could be. Take a look and laugh with me.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

The Ice Cream Parlor

The Tooth Fairy doesn’t come to our house. Not because of any deep seated anti-Tooth Fairy angst. I'm just a tradition rebel. When each child looses his first tooth, we leave the rest of the pack at home and take the newly toothless one out for ice cream. This was easily accomplished when all of the children were young and the ice cream parlor was ten minutes away.

We realized this simple tradition had become more complicated when Claire’s first tooth came out in my palm. The big guys don’t need a baby sitter. The little ones do. Kid combinations are such that we can’t leave them all home alone without outside supervision. Add in the drive time to and from the nearest soft serve establishment and we’re looking at three hours. Just for a quick trip to get ice cream! What to do?

“I know, Mama! We can drive to the grocery store and get ice cream and eat it in the car!”

“I don’t know. The thought of eating cold ice cream in the car in a hurry in January isn’t my idea of a date, Claire. I think we can come up with something better. How ‘bout we just make homemade ice cream? It’s healthier anyway.” Claire looked doubtful.

We have been playing restaurant during meal times in order to teach the children the proper way to serve. “Don’t slam the dishes on the table... Don’t reach across one person to serve another...Walk around and serve each person from the side...Ask them if they are done before rushing their plates from the table...” We’ve come a long way in a few short weeks. All the kids fight for this job because of the tip at the end of the meal.

“Claire, how ‘bout this.You can get all dressed up and the other kids can serve us in the living room. Then Papa and I will sit with you and watch Barbie-Something-Topia and have popcorn.

When Claire beamed at the mention of Barbie and popcorn, I knew we had a winner.

“Welcome to the We Pick What You Eat CafĂ©,” John passed out the menus that Lauren had prepared for us. These menus listed seven kinds of ice cream but since we had only made one kind an hour before the date, we chose the special. Strawberry Vanilla. Faith took our drink order and walked to and from the kitchen like a princess. She returned with a glass of water and another filled with milk and set the glasses down gently in front of us. Gently. It was a proud moment. Lauren served Claire her ice cream in a teacup and Stuart’s and mine in small bowls. John followed behind with the ice cream canister and set it down in front of Stuart. Stuart loves the “chippies” that freeze to the side of the container. Everyone laughed at the sight of the oversized metal canister glowing in the candlelight. Definitely not standard restaurant fare.

Charlie cried in the kitchen where he ate his ice cream with the toothy children. “I want ithe cream in a teacup. Claire can’t looth a tooth! It’th my turn!” Lauren came and went discreetly. John came and stayed. We scooted him off. He came back.

“Would you like me to do something waiters never do?”

Claire looked at him inquisitively. John produced a warm washcloth and proceeded to scrub the ice cream off her face.

“This is a great date, Papa. Thank you for taking me,” Claire dried her face with the back of her hand as Stuart left quarters on the table to tip the eager wait staff.

We sorted ourselves onto the sofas…hecklers and non-hecklers. Claire’s a good sport. She tolerates quiet heckling. She understands that these Barbie productions that she adores are not everyone’s cup of tea. Stuart handed her a bag overflowing with popcorn. Lauren stayed up late the evening before to paint the bag to make it look like official movie fare.

“I get a whole bag all to myself. I get this whole bag. This is all for me,” Claire announced periodically throughout the movie. It’s a big deal at our house to get something that doesn’t need to be shared.

Barbie danced across the screen as the Swan Princess. The hecklers heckled and Claire ate her popcorn very slowly. When the movie was over, Claire put on her princess dress and danced around the house. “Thank you for my date, Mama! It was a very good night. I love you!” And with that, she twirled and tiptoed off to bed.

It was a very good night.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Mr. Fixit

"I hate to admit it but, I don't think this pot can be saved," I called to Stuart over the terrific racket I was making with a metal spatula. "I've soaked it all week and I'm hardly making a dent in this mess." I insist on making my own pizza sauce because it's so thick and delicious but sometimes things go awry. I filled six quart jars with steaming goodness before I discovered that the bottom inch of sauce had fossilized.

Stuart came out in the kitchen and peered over my shoulder. "You're pretty rough on your pans. Remember the sweet potatoes?" (Two inches of water is not enough to steam forgotten potatoes for sixty-something minutes.) "I hate to throw this one out. It's a good heavy pan. Maybe I can take it to work and sandblast it." He was quiet for a minute, thinking. "I know, I've got a metal grinder out in my shop. That might work." He disappeared out the back door and I walked away from the sink and went to clean out the fridge. The pan was now Stuart's problem.

Stuart is a handy guy. We hardly every upgrade to a newer model of anything. He fixes dishwashers, washing machines, food processors... Once when somebody put a huge hole in the bottom of my canister vacuum I was so excited. I'm so tired of this thing! I'll finally get a new one. Surely he can't fix that! Nope. A little fabric coated in epoxy glue did the trick. As good as new.

A few minutes later, the kitchen was filled with a metallic, whirring hum. "This falls under the category of Kids! Don't try this at home!" Stuart called from the sink. He turned off his little brush and walked by me to return his tool, his hair and face covered with black flecks. I brushed him off and sent him on his way and went to inspect his work. The pot glistened on the counter. As good as new. Of course.

Sunday, January 6, 2008

I'm Still Here

I know it’s been awhile since I’ve sat down with all of you for a visit. December came and went before I could catch my breath. Here’s what I’ve been doing with Stuart and the kids:

…celebrating the birthday of our very first teenager. (I just want to stop time!)
...setting phone limits for said teenager.
…celebrating the first lost tooth of child number four.
…teaching child number five to put on his own pants and underwear. He can do it. Yeah!
...teaching said half-naked child that demonstrating this new found dressing skill for the neighbors is not such a great idea. They might not cheer as vigorously for him as the six of us do.
…going on a beekeeper field trip.
…taking stuff to the Salvation Army and returning home with some great bargains.
…learning to make pasta and hanging it from hangers hung from the ceiling fan above our bed on Christmas Day.
…making coffee ice-cream, and homemade waffles with new Christmas equipment.
…researching the health benefits of kefir, parsley, lemons, apple cider vinegar, dandelions...
…making kefir and encouraging the children to drink it. “Try it. You’re just not used to the taste. In a few days, it won’t be so bad because it will be familiar to you.” (They’re not buying it. "Blech! You're trying to kill us, Mom!")
…traveling to Virginia to visit cousins. This brings our travel time up to sixty hours in the last month.
…stringing popcorn and cranberries and sewing stuffed birds and apples for the Christmas tree.
...chasing the dog out of the house for eating the popcorn off of the tree.
…adding yoga to my workouts. Ouch!
…putting together a thousand piece puzzle of the Wild West.
...discovering the bifocals may be in my near future while putting together said puzzle.
…reading a book on pigeons a few pages at a time and wondering a.) how someone could write a whole book devoted entirely to the humble pigeon and b.)what kind of nerd I must be to enjoy it.
…hanging out with the kids in the living room with a fire in the fireplace and books and lighted candles. Cozy.
…playing hand bells with my husband and children in public. Luckily it was a small audience. It was not pretty!

So yes. I'm still here. I have not abandoned this blog, I'm just trying to figure out how to fit everything in. It's a good place to be.

Happy New Year!