Saturday, December 31, 2016

New year's eve party

We had the deaf families over today for a lunch party.  It was really fun to have some time to chat with my friends in a setting where it didn't matter if my kids were running around.  I've been meaning to have them all over for a long time so it's good we got to do it.  I'd like to do this more often, inviting over several families I love and just relax!

Some drama that overshadowed the day:  G wanted to play with a toy and get me to fix it while I was making pizza for the party.  He kept asking and we kept telling him it wasn't a good time.  Then when I was done, I said yes, he could have the part, but P was fed up with is pestering by then.  So P said "No" and G stormed off to his room and spent the whole party reading in his book.  So T and E were sad they couldn't hang out with him. 

M wasn't being careful and hit a child with the tireswing.  That child cried until they threw up!  Fortunately her mom got her to the tile and her dad cleaned it up so we were all in shock, but able to move on.  I hadn't had much sleep so in my attempt to help I smashed into the gate and cut my hand.  Go, fight, win!

Another little boy was running and hit his head on one of the chairs. 

But mostly it was great and I felt more relaxed than I usually do at parties.  It probably helped a lot that this was mostly adults.  So I didn't really need to be keeping small children out of things or off the table except my own...

I need to ween L.  It's hard to just say it's time, but it is time. 

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Homeschooling church

At the park, a grandma with a 2 year old and I struck up a conversation.  It came out that I have 5 children and that I homeschool.  I also go to church and send the children to Sunday school.  "I thought you said you homeschool?"  She said.  That gave me pause thinking "Why do I homeschool them for some things but not church?"  Well, I do homeschool them for church, but I also participate in a community where they are able to experience the example and teaching of other members of the community.  And we have scripture and prayer study at home as well as general moral instruction, daily...

My sister is the bomb.  She homeschools her 9 children and currently keeps them home from primary for various reasons.  Instead of primary the children come home and study the gospel with their mom.  The family has a daily devotional with singing.  She is really schooling them in the gospel.

I think the general population is uncomfortable with homeschooling because they imagine unregulated instruction of children is possible, and the comparison of time invested makes them uncomfortable.  Yet children in school with involved parents are very successful at the tasks of school.  And children at church with involved parents are also likely to be very successful at church. 

Homeschool parents are a lot like highly involved school parents.  I know moms who are at their child's school weekly for several hours.  Wow!  As a homeschool mom, that's about how much I show up for my children's education.   I check in to see if they've done their work.  I remind them to do their work.  And if they have a question, I try to help.  I don't actually have to teach them much.  They are amazing!

Tonight we did read a book about snowflakes and then we went and cut up snowflakes and decorated the front room.  Oh yeah.  I felt so school-y.

My mother in law gave me a history curriculum for Christmas.  I'm really looking forward to going through the course with the children.  I never had a good relationship with history. 

Modeling a good attitude toward learning is such a benefit to your children. 

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

"Your hands are full!"

When I'm out at the store, or other setting where it is obvious that the children are all with me, people like to say "Your hands are full."  I think it's pretty interesting to see that the legal limits for child care centers are insanely high.   Imagine if I had 4 infants with me trying to navigate the store.  Or 15 4 year olds.  People aren't used to seeing so many children at once.  They think of children in terms of <2 or="" parents="" with="">15 in a school setting.   It's really interesting.  Yet so many parents are putting their young children in these situations.  You would never think of taking care of 4 infants at once.  That would be insane!  Yet people are willing to leave their infants in these situations where the care provider will be stressed out and not able to give much attention to their child.  Duh!  I think it is ironic that parents of twins are acknowledged to be very overwhelmed.  And if a parent has 3+ it is assumed that they will be hiring help because how on earth would anyone take care of 3 babies at once!?

 Even leaving your small children in the care of family or grandparents, there is a reason grandparents are not having infants of their own.  They are too old to take care of an active baby, unless they had their own children very early.

 I'm really grateful that I was raised with an example of full time homemaking mother.  P also was raised to respect the work of mothering as real, hard work.  

 Child care workers are not paid well and the training/education requirements are very low.  This is one more reason why putting your child in a bad situation.  Why would you put your child in the care of someone who is not college educated and under financial stress from not being well paid, by the parents of the children in their care?

 Today we went to see a movie for the first time in 2 years...  We left the children with a dear friend and her family of 9.  Fortunately the children all big kids can play together well and she just had her hands full with our 15month old and her 2 year old.  Yet this falls within the legal requirements of a daycare!     

Child-to-Staff Ratios

Florida Statutes require child care providers not exceed the following staff-to-child ratios (Note: Some counties may have more restrictive ratios than those required by the state.)
For licensed child care facilities:
  • Children under 12 months:  1 to 4
  • Children age 12 to 23 months:    1 to 6
  • Children age 24 to 35 months:    1 to 11
  • Children age 36 to 47 months:    1 to 15
  • Children age 48 months to 59 months:  1 to 20
  • Children age 60 months (5 years old) or older:   1 to 25
A family child care provider may care for one of the following groups of children:
  • 1 to 4:    from birth to 12 months of age
  • 1 to 6:    if no more than three are under 12 months
  • 1 to 10:   as long as at least five children are school-age and no more than two are under 12 months of age
  • 2 to 8:    if more than 4 children under 24 months old
  • 2 to 12:   if no more than 4 children are under 24 months old

Friday, December 23, 2016

Holiday Ambitions

This holiday season has been great.  I say this right before we celebrate G's birthday tomorrow and Christmas the next day...  Our homeschool group didn't meet this month and we had less obligations so we had more time to celebrate our own traditions.

We got up the 25 days clip board and filled the slots with exciting things like going to the carousel, and the car wash!  Then we got sick and wound up off on most days.  But we tried and succeeded in many fun things this season.  We made sugar cookies for the first time in at least a year.  It was even a pleasant experience for me, except for the fact that I ate a bunch of them...  I let each child come in and cut an entire pan of 3 shapes they chose.  Then I let them frost the ones they cut out much later in the evening.

Today we did a little caroling.  It was much less than I'd thought we would, but it was more than the zero caroling we have done in the last 4 years.

On Sunday we will go to church.  G will recite the 12th article of faith to pass off his Faith in God award.  We'll sing as a family, and M will play the piano.  Then if all goes according to plan, G will get ordained!

I made a few gifts this year.  I had pictures printed and sent a few letters this year. But mostly I appreciated that I am blessed with a very low threshold of Christmas compulsion.
This picture says it all.  See those lights?  Taped up with measuring tape masking tape my father in law gave us for Christmas last year.  See this awesome little boy?  He's got double ear infections.  See that ribbon around his neck?  It's his gold medal he got in his shoe from St. Nicholas (aka G who sneaked out during a round of hide and seek to fill shoes waiting on the porch, with golden treasures.  B wears it every day.  See this cookie house that is fabulously decorated, not falling apart, and on a holiday styrofoam plate that came with the house?  Oh yeah.  I made 6 of these houses, carefully cutting the pieces and setting them with white chocolate.  I also used white chocolate to glue it to the plate.  The frosting the kids used to stick the treats on was too runny.  But we did use a lot of colorful cereal and minimal candy.  I was really pleased with it.  So was B.
So was M.  M will fill the stockings this year.

In general I don't like a lot of holiday traditions.  I'm a scrooge.  But I am grateful for eager children willing to pick up the slack and bring magic for one another.

Monday, December 19, 2016

don't speak

P has this story from his teenage years when someone said something unkind to him.  That person probably didn't even register their comment as unkind.  But it lives on. 

I like to talk.  Just to hear myself talk.  I need to just stop.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Single parents

I say a lot of stupid things.  But I hope I never claim to be "basically a single parent."  I've heard women say this when their husbands are traveling or sick.  Being without your spouse for reasons of work or illness for weeks or months at a time is not, in my mind, being a single parent.  Having grown up in a home where my parents did not live in the same house for 8 years (2 living apart, 5+ divorced) I take exception to this complaint.  It's like someone who is feeling sick saying they "basically have cancer."

Single parents are single for a variety of reasons ranging from death of spouse, betrayal of spouse, never had a spouse.  And single parents provide for themselves through various means, from child support, government aid, full time work.  While some single parents retain the support of a co-parent that can provide assistance with child care, financial support, or other, they aren't a spouse. 

So I think my main beef with this complaint is that to me single parents are not married, and these women are married.  And while these women are stressed out by a temporary time of increased burden on themselves, they still have a spouse to share the burden with when they get back from travel, or sickness.  This complaint denies the true difficulty faced by people who are actual single parents and expresses ingratitude for the marriage that is still intact.

What I would like to say is "I'm sorry that you don't have the support of your husband right now.  I hope your marriage continues to bless your lives."

Friday, December 16, 2016

teach boys to protect

Tonight G was wrestling with his sister.  P was very upset considering the situation with a football team boycotting to show support of their 10 team mates suspended for sexual assault.  From an article in the NYT "Of 12 accused parties, the report found, despite conflicting accounts, that 10 players had violated university policy on sexual harassment and that four had violated sexual assault policies."

I hate when kids play boys against girls.  In my experience it is always initiated by the boys that want to womp on the girls.  And the girls, people pleasers to their detriment, go along with it.  I tell my kids that Women and men need to work together.  That is God's plan for us.  A girl might compete with a boy, but pitting girls against boys is always cowardly.

We talk to the children about how they are to only one in charge of their body.  I often tell them "I'm a person and I don't like how you are touching me.  I'm leaving."  Just because I'm their mom doesn't give them a right to squish, pull or bash into me.

G will be 12 next week.  He hasn't been as proactive as M about reading up on human reproduction.  G has a friend that is a few months younger who is a fan of challenging or excluding girls.  I call the kid out on it.  I make sure G and M know that his attitudes are stupid.  The boys father is awesome so hopefully he'll get straightened out.  But we need to teach G that being a man involves protecting women.  Real men cherish and appreciate the women in their lives.  The world is full of lies on how men should act to women.  Pornography is a product of treating women as a goal, instead of people.  So it's important to learn the righteous way to think of and treat women.  And it's important to learn to talk to your mind to combat feelings that are wicked.  Like "Boys are better than girls."  No, we're all children of God and god wants men to love and respect women.

running in the dark

Tonight after a dub dub dinner, we played Blind Man's treasure in the dark.  One child is blindfolded with a treasure and flashlight.  The other children try and steal the present.  The flashlight is used like a gun, not a laser to send folks back to the road.  The kids loved it.  B, L and I mostly hung out on the swings feeling happy. The big kids each had a few turns and we managed to stop playing before anyone cried too much.

Playing in the yard after dark was a big deal in my childhood.  I'm so glad for cool, not cold, winter nights to play in the dark.  I also like it when it is light after dinner so we can go to the park, but that's what the summer is for, right?

Tomorrow is our ward Christmas party, breakfast.  I'm bringing ham, the best ham.  I also bought a flat of strawberries from my favorite fruit stand and he donated a watermelon, 3 cantaloupes and a 10 cucumber for the church. 

Monday, December 12, 2016

Best Christmas Pageant Ever!

This may have been the first book I ever read.  I didn't like reading until I was pretty old, 12+.  For some reason this book stuck with me as a Christmas classic and nobody in my current sphere has read it.  Reading it as an adult is really different, as it usually is.  I fall in love with the mother in the story. 

Who knows how the Herdmans turned out.  But this story is a classic case of churched people judging unchurched people by their standard.  And the unchurched people have so much to teach us about being true disciples.

"Well it was the best Christmas pageant we ever had. 
Everybody said so, but nobody seemed to know why.  When it was over people stood around the lobby of the church talking about what was different this year.  There was something special, everyone said-- they couldn't put their finger on what.
Mrs. Wendleken said, "Well, Mary the mother of Jesus had a black eye; that was something special.  But only what you might expect," she added.
She meant that it was the most natural thing in the world for a Herdman to have a black eye.  But actually nobody hit Imogene and she didn't hit anyone else.  Her eye wasn't really black either, just all puffy and swollen.  She had walked into the corner of the choir-robe cabinet, in a kind of daze--as if she had just caught onto the idea of God, and the wonder of Christmas.
And this was the funny thing about it all.  For years, I'd thought about the wonder of Christmas, and the mystery of Jesus' birth, and never really understood it.  But now, because of the Herdmans, it didn't seem so mysterious after all.
When Imogene had asked me what the pageant was about, I told her it was about Jesus, but that was just part of it.  It was about a new baby, and his mother and father who were in a lot of trouble--no money, no place to go, no doctor, nobody they knew.  And then, arriving from the East (like my uncle from New Jersey) some rich friends.
But Imogene, I guess, didn't see it that way.  Christmas just came over her all at once, like a case of chills and fever.  And so she was crying, and walking into furniture.
Afterward there were candy canes and little tiny Testaments for everyone, and a poinsettia plant for my mother from the whole Sunday school.  We put the costumes away and folded up the collapsible manger, and just before we left, my father snuffed out the last of the tall white candles.
"I guess that's everything," he said as we stood at the back of the church.  "All over now.  It was quite a pageant."  Then he looked at my mother.  "What's that you've got?"
"It's the ham," she said.  "They wouldn't take it back.  They wouldn't take any candy either, or any of the little Bibles.  But Imogene did ask me for a set of the Bible-story pictures, and she took out the Mary picture and said it was exactly right, whatever that means."
I think it meant that no matter how she herself was, Imogene liked the idea of the Mary in the picture--all pink and white and pure-looking, as if she never washed the dishes or cooked supper or did anything at all except have Jesus on Christmas Eve.
But as far as I'm concerned, Mary is always going to look a lot like Imogene Herdman--sort of nervous and bewildered, but ready to clobber anyone who laid a hand on her baby.  And the Wise Men are always going to be Leroy and his brothers, bearing ham. 
When we came out of the church that night it was cold and clear, with crunchy snow underfoot and bright, bright stars overhead.  And I thought about the Angel of the Lord--Gladys, with her skinny legs and her dirty sneakers sticking out from under her robe, yelling at all of us, everywhere:
"Hey!  Unto you a child is born!”

Friday, December 9, 2016


lP and M are often at odds.  They are the best of friends and the worst sisters.  Last night lP was doing a good job of playing nicely and I let her have a bracelet that was in my collection of stuff.  I forgot that M had been given it by a primary teacher.  M is given a lot of stuff by primary teachers.  She has had the strange luck of always having primary teachers that gift and treat a lot.  But this small CTR bracelet was small even for lP.  M got mad and demanded the bracelet that I had taken a long time ago because I had to clean up a mess that included the bracelet.

I sent M to her room and the evening proceeded so peacefully.  Nobody was fighting or running around the house.  G read a book quietly.  B and lP played.  L went to sleep!  M stayed in her room a long time.  I talked to her about how everything was so nice and quiet.  I pointed out to her that all her nice stuff was given to her and that nobody ever gives lP treats or trinkets.  lP is older now than M was when she got to go to disney twice.  Eventually decided to do something kind for lP.  She made lP a coupon book for nice things to do with M and plans to give it to her for Christmas.

I'm really trying to encourage the children to make gifts this year.  We're less busy and that means we have a bit more time to think and plan some home made gifts rather than just going and picking up something from the store.
We made these little snowmen out of marshmallows and pretzels decorated with candy.

We went to a candy store for a field trip with homeschool group.  It was pretty fun and a good opportunity to experience navigating downtown Jtown.  I was worried it would be like NYC but it wasn't so hard to figure out, and way less traffic...  At the end of the tour of course they lead you to a room with hundreds of candy choices.  I told the kids we weren't going to get any and they didn't fuss.  They just enjoyed going around and pointing out all the amazing candies they had never seen before.  So I decided after they had looked at it, to go a head and get a box with a few of many things.  It is nice to treat them when they behave.

Thursday, December 8, 2016


This was G's first Halloween costume, an astronaut.  He was still in chemo and I wanted to take him to parties; I wanted to go to parties, and keep him in isolation.  Those were some hard times.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

taste memory

I got some graham crackers to make cookie houses this year.  I'm planning to use white "chocolate" and sugary cereals with minimal candy for decoration.  I have cream cheese in the house and I remember that I really like graham crackers and cream cheese.  But I don't remember what it tastes like.  And I know better than to taste it because then I'll eat a whole pack, or box.  Honesty.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016


We're sick today.  I hope it goes fast.  Judging from the girls bouncing around in the bathroom, It's a quick bug.

When the kids are sick we make them a bed in the bathtub to contain things and then they are on diet of clear fluids for a long time.   We had 2 sick last night so we inflated a raft and put it in there for the second to be contained in.  It helps to rinse out gross bedding in the wash sink before putting it in the washer, get the chunks off.  Gross.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

beach walk and letters

I took the children out to Vbeach for the first time since the hurricane.  There are a lot of changes like the boardwalk being closed because the stairs are gone.  The live guard tower that was substantial, not just a red zig zag of boards, it's gone.  The contour of the beach is very different.  The children had resisted going on a beach walk for the last few weeks because I wouldn't let them wear swim clothes or have permission to get wet.  Finally we went and they behaved so great.  I had no camera with me so I just have to savor the memory of the beautiful water, and nimble children scampering over rocks.  It is such a wonderful natural playground.  And they didn't even push limits and get all covered in sand. 

This is the table slide.  We put it up every month or so.  The kids have a blast until they drive us crazy or hurt someone, or both.  Then we put it away until the next time I feel like giving them happy childhood memories.  A lot of what we do is so that the children can look back and feel like they had a happy childhood.  There are plenty of unhappy times, like on Saturday morning when they have to clean their rooms.  But hopefully the unhappy times help them develop grit.  : )  Or at the least, they are developing a taste for a room that smells ok and you can walk in.

I wrote a letter to my dad today.  I love letters.  I've written love letters...  When P and I were dating and engaged back in 1999 we wrote letters.  Email was a thing but letters could be written anywhere and anytime, bit by bit until you were ready to send them.  Long distance was still expensive so we talked once a week for 1 hour, or less if we were busy or traveling with marching band.  So I'm grateful for those letters we wrote when we were in class and waiting between activities.  I know I am more careful with my words in letters.  I am also more loquacious in letters.

G recently graduated from speech therapy.  My impression is that his language is so excellent that the pediatric office doesn't have much to do.  He just needs to slow down and speak clearly, which he can do.  So according to their metrics, they've done all they can.  And they have.  Speech therapy has been a wonderful safe place for G to continue speech routines regardless of whether he was feeling oral outside of that setting.  He is a major code switcher now.  He signs at school and speaks in most other settings.  Even at church he has started to sim-com or voice when there are no deaf people in the room.  For the primary program he signed and spoke his parts.

So with that newly freed hour I hope to take the kids to have some beach therapy.