Category Archives: Babies & Kids

Thanksgiving, Toddler Style

Whoever said that children are never grateful?

My just-turned-two year old always wants to pray after everyone else at dinner. Usually she repeats what has just been said, a litany of thanks for everyone around the table. “Dear God, Tank oo Jesus, tank oo bubba, tank oo mama, tank oo dada…” But tonight, she gave us evidence that she has caught on to thanking Him from whom all blessings flow:

“Tank oo milkies!”

Lest anyone think she was just naming the contents of a glass before her, think again. Milkies is her word for mama’s milk, not to be had from a glass.


Filed under Babies & Kids, Giving Thanks


I am so frustrated right now. Technology comes with so many “side benefits.” We are getting ready for a trip and I was busily washing clothes. I threw a load into my 2 year old Kenmore dryer, turned it on, walked away, and few moments later heard a loud thump and the dryer shut off. I’m sure the belt broke. It’s very convenient for the company that my warranty expired 3 months ago almost to the day. I swear they must time it that way!

This wouldn’t be so frustrating to me except that I have had so many problems with my brand new appliances. None have been cheap, off-brands either. I have gone round and round with Maytag over my “Quiet Series 300” dishwasher. What a lemon!! The folding tines collapse at the slightest touch, the plastic pieces that hold the tines snap from constantly having to readjust the tines. The pulley that opens the door has broken. The plastic latch that opens the door literally crumbled to pieces in my hand just the other day! It doesn’t clean as stated, i.e. “never rinse your dishes again!” Baloney. And the parts center has been horrible. They have spent so much money sending me the wrong parts. I have an entire dishrack sitting in my garage that they didn’t even want me to send back. I have lodged numerous complaints both in paper, email, and telephone and I have just gotten the standard, “We are sorry for your dissatisfaction, but…” reply. I have finally resigned myself to NEVER buying anything Maytag again.

My also very expensive Kenmore Elite bottom freezer refridgerator also makes me crazy. The doors don’t close easily and because there are two, you have to conscientiously make sure one of them is not hung up on the other. The deli pull out tray broke when a friend who was unaware of the delicate nature of my fridge, shut the doors too vigorously. I will never buy a bottom freezer again, at least one with a drawer. Bad idea in a big family with lots of small children. If one child doesn’t shut the drawer extremely tight, ice forms in the track and then you can hardly open or shut it without great force. Also, one of my children shut the door hard, thinking that it was just ice in the track, and inadvertently broke the arm of the ice maker, so we had to disconnected the ice maker because the durn thing didn’t know when to stop making ice! What fun!

Ironically, my hot water dispenser, the one I won with my kitchen makeover broke after a few months. That was fun…the lever broke and the water shot out full blast. We had to shut the water off to the entire sink for about a week and a half before they could send us a new one for us to install. I have now installed two, due to a finish problem with the replacement, so I feel like I could be a qualified Insinkerator installer!

I’m sure I could avoid some of these expensive problems if I purchased the extended warranties but I refuse!! You mean I have to pay them hundreds of dollars on top of hundreds of dollars already spent because they refuse to stand behind the quality of their products? Do they knowingly make junk so they can make money off of extended warranties and repairs?

Hey, I might need a second job to help pay for all of these appliance woes…anyone need a hot water dispenser? I’d only charge you $40 dollars an hour. How ’bout it?

UPDATE:  Okay, okay, I confess.  In a moment of frustration I was unfair to my Kenmore dryer.  After my husband took it apart, and, finding nothing wrong with it, we called in the repairman.  He fiddled with it and finally handed me a wad of fabric that had lodged into the fan blade.  This had somehow gotten shoved down the lint cleaner.  Serves me right for not keeping the top of the dryer clean.  Bah!

And, not to ungrateful, I wanted to note that although my Insinkerator hot water dispenser broke, the company very quickly and nicely replaced it with a new one.  We had to install it ourselves only because we live in a “remote” area.

There, now I feel better.

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In our weakness…

…His strength is made perfect. How I know this now. And I also know how painful it is to be weak and let His strength be perfect.

I was reminded of this as I was visiting Owlhaven’s site and ran across this plea to pray for Lucas, a fellow blogger’s little boy who was burned last night. Many of you know that our own son was burned about a year and a half ago. My heart goes out to this family and Lucas. It brings back the feeling of my heart breaking in two for my little boy. Please read his story and PRAY, PRAY, PRAY for him.

Also, scroll down and look at the you-tube video the family made of their adoption story. Keep a kleenex ready! They brought their two new children home only a few months ago.

I was thinking about how right now the family’s souls feel as raw as their son’s flesh. I was also thinking how God showed Himself over and over through our ordeal, mostly through the prayers we felt that were coming literally from around the world. Now, as I told my son of little Lucas, his earnest face lit up when I asked him to pray for him. Can you imagine? He actually felt joy that he could pray for another little boy in need. What a blessing. I think of how many people come away from a painful tragedy bitter. I know our son’s injuries could have been worse, but I believe his belief in God’s goodness would still have been the same.

Now our son is healed and stronger in his faith than he was before he was burned. Please pray the same for Lucas.


Filed under Adoption, Babies & Kids, Giving Thanks, His Banner over Me, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Giant T.V. Boxes

A Good Backyard circa 1960

My husband has recently been hired by a major airline. This means we will eventually move from our beloved little town, far from an interstate, to the inevitable matrix of commercialism, toll roads, and bustle inherently found near major airports. I am trying real hard not to think about this too much, so I am concentrating on getting excited about finding a house and neighborhood that I like. One with charm, neighborly goodwill, and an abundance of green spaces.

This is harder than you think. What I am finding is that most homes these days are designed for a lifestyle that does not fit our family. As I plow through online photos of houses for sale, I am continually floored by both the size and number of t.v.s found in homes these days. Page after page of living rooms with recesses built specifically for oversized t.v.s, replacing the built-in bookcases that used to be preferred. There are t.v.s in kitchens, bathrooms, even garages. Predictably, any home built after 1990 follows a formula based around current values. As I look at the architectural changes and general house-to-yard ratio from the early 30s homes to now, I see proof in how much our values have changed.

Square Feet
As our families have shrunk in both size and co-habiting generations, our houses have grown. Tremendously. 1,200 sq. feet used to be sufficient to raise a family of 6. Now, 3,000 sq. feet is a must. For a family of 4. No matter what this says about our attitude towards children, one thing is clear. We like our stuff. We need bigger houses to hold more stuff. We prefer exercise equipment to a walk outdoors. We need closets the size of bedrooms to hold our clothes, shoes, and purses. Our kitchens must be able to accommodate every gadget Pampered Chef ever made, yet I would bet the average family eats out more often than it cooks! And, of course, we need more space for t.v.s and the couches that must accompany them. Personally, I don’t want that much house to clean! Whew! It tires me out just thinking about it. But, then again, if your kids are glued to the t.v., they don’t make that much of a mess.

Don’t worry. Windows have not gone away. New homes have windows. I just have noticed that the placement is different. The windows are designed now to catch light. This is not a bad thing. Countless homes I have viewed have these gorgeous windows flanking the fireplaces t.v. alcoves. These windows run clear up to the second story. Stunning. But what is lacking are windows that afford a good view of the backyard and side yards. Bedrooms seem to favor high windows. Picture windows are out. Besides, those pesky windows, if placed low, interfere with the t.v. armoire placement.

Backyards, or lack of them
Why do you need low windows when there is nothing to look out upon? Why a picture window when you are only gazing upon a fence? Or a neighbor’s air conditioning unit? We have sacrificed green spaces and trees and a yard to accommodate all of that living space we seem to need. Never mind if you enjoy breakfast on the patio. Or that the kids have no where to build a fort, play war (hear the collective sucking in of breath), or toss a ball. We need the space to build a game room so the Game Cube playing doesn’t interfere with the big t.v. in the living room.

A Bad Backyard circa 2000

The Great Room Concept
I’m not talking about a kitchen that is open to a family room. I renovated my 1930s servant’s kitchen to remove a swinging door with the precise purpose of opening up my kitchen. I am talking about these cavernous rooms that have open kitchens, living rooms, dining rooms, and even open balconies to include the second story. I assume this is so everyone can keep an eye or ear on American Idol, even while going about their other activities. This would drive me crazy. In a homeschooling family, quiet, private space is a premium. Besides, who wants to see the dirty dishes stacked in the sink and glasses left out on the counter from all angles of the house? Oh, wait, that’s what fast food is for!

Image over Substance
My last frustration with current values is the lack of quality in construction materials. Something has to give when building such enormous homes, so I suppose real wood takes a back seat to fiberboard. Trimwork has almost disappeared. The front of a home may have brick, but certainly not the sides. And these are homes that are not inexpensive! I guess that as long as the house looks good from the street it doesn’t really matter what the inside looks like. Besides, no one will notice when must-see t.v. is on.

I know that I sound a little bitter, but seeing how our homes have been turned into giant t.v. boxes, I can’t help but worry about our future generations. Will they appreciate nature? Will they know how to have a conversation? What are the effects of surrogate parenting with Nickelodeon? We are already seeing a massive decline in the physical health of our children. Their thumb muscles are well-developed, and a few gifted ones may put that to good use by becoming excellent surgeons, but those will be the exceptions. Who will know the joys of curling up in a quiet corner and reading a book? Who will remember watching the habits of birds through a bird feeder placed outside a low window? All of these things endure, many years after the names of the American Idols have long been forgotten.

I suppose we will be looking in neighborhoods built in the pre-entertainment era. I want a backyard! A big one! I want bookshelves! A window seat! A cozy kitchen! A house big enough to find a good place to read a book, but small enough that we don’t need intercoms to hear each other. Anyone have a house like that they want to sell? Of course you don’t. You’re not budging. Is that why I only see the giant t.v. boxes for sale? *sigh*


Filed under Babies & Kids, Homeschooling, Thoughts, Uncategorized

Our Favorite Bird Poems

We have followed these wonderful bird poems all year long. How I wished we owned this book! Check it out!

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Racehorse writers/Reluctant writers

I ran across my daughter’s second grade journal today and began to panic a little. My son, nearing the end of first grade, is nowhere near the skills shown by my daughter’s writing, even at the beginning of her second grade year. I know that it can be folly to compare children but it did spur me on today to search for ways to encourage writing fluency in my son.

I really should be encouraged by the fact that he no longer grips the pencil in a tight fist. And that he is a better reader at this age than his sister was. But writing?? He’d rather go to the dentist and get his teeth filled. Much of this has to do with a little perfectionist tendency that has surfaced in him. He hates to guess at the spelling of a word, lest he be wrong!! How different this is from his sister, who can write like a racehorse, but can’t even spell her own name. (I’m not kidding…in the midst of furious writing, she has been known to misspell her name…multiple times.) Like immersing yourself in a Shakespeare play, it takes me awhile to understand her own “alternately-spelled” language, but once I get it, it all makes sense. And the stories are riveting.

I have to admit, it’s hard to look at my son writing. It still looks painfully awkward. I can see why he wants to wriggle, and shake his hands in frustration, and whine and complain. Because of this, I realized today I have been reluctant to make him write as much as he should. He never minds dictating a story to me, but to write one himself…??

I found this website and I’m going to give it a whirl: WritingFix: Word and writing games for young writers
I have also determined to suffer through a journal time every morning, no matter how much I want to stop.

It’s funny to see bits of my own writing habits in both of my school-age children. As a young child I had terrible handwriting…consistent C’s and D’s, but boy, could I spin a story!  With near perfect spelling, too!.  But what went on before I began the story?  Whining by me, cajoling/threats by the adults.  I have always had a love/hate relationship with writing.  It’s dreadful to get me started, yet I am constantly writing in my head and can’t stop.  Once it’s out…I love it again.  Strange.


Filed under Babies & Kids, Homeschooling, Words and Writing

Good, but Violent

For those of you who know my second daughter, our 5 y/o thirdborn, you’ll know that she is the “quiet” one of the family. She is mostly content to listen and observe. Like most people who share that trait, when she does choose to talk, it is usually a zinger. Something that makes you think. Or at least it should.

She very casually said to me yesterday, “Mama, you’re good, but you’re violent.” That was it, no further explanation. I paused a moment, and said to her, “Yes, that’s very possibly true.” What made the comment more intriguing was that at that moment, I was sitting on my bed reading a book and she was cozied up in a chair, also subdued.

How much truth was packed in that statement! That very day I had taken part of the Palm Sunday liturgy where Luke’s Passion story is read aloud with assigned parts and the congregation shouts out “Crucify! Crucify!” Oh, yes, my child, I am indeed very violent.

Over the past few weeks of Lent, I have spent some time thinking about my very sins that have caused great violence upon an innocent. I am only beginning to scratch the surface of my very violent nature against my very Holy God. What seemed so timely about her statement was that I have spent much of my Christian life “tidying” up my sins, making them what I thought was more palatable to God. I had confused what it meant to be saved and what Paul meant when he said that we are still being saved. I still have a war going on in my body. I am now trying to name my sins in truth, not what I am more comfortable with.

A few weeks earlier I might have been a little jarred by her words. “What is she saying? Does she even know what the word violent really means?” I would have tried to talk her out of what she said. But yesterday, it just seemed to fit into my thoughts perfectly. While my 5 year old probably had spanking in mind, I was delving a little deeper. Every time I rebel, deny my Lord, ignore His urgings, am cross with my family, argue my point too vociferously, pass by the hungry, or even bludgeon my spouse with silence, I am raging against the demands God makes on my life. I am furious with Him for intruding into my life. To make matters worse, I am furious with Him when He doesn’t appear to be intruding enough in my life. It doesn’t matter how great or small my sin is, the end result is violence.

Thankfully, there is also within my soul His banner, shouting gloriously “Good, Good, Lord of All, you are Good!” His life, His light in me is good. I can taste it, I can feel it, I would die without it. He is winning me over completely to goodness, but the battle is long and the battle is bloody. One day, I will be good, wholly, but for now, alas, my daughter was right.

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Filed under Babies & Kids, Giving Thanks, His Banner over Me, Thoughts

Just in case you happen to be wondering if today’s the day…

Isn’t this wild? If you are sitting around waiting and wondering if today is the day your labor will start, have fun!  Oh, by the way, the spectrum runs from dark green (low chance) to yellow (medium) to red (high).


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More than You Ever Wanted to Know about Vultures

Amazing how you find yourself doing things for your kids you never thought you’d do.

Yesterday, I found myself throwing my laundry basket over a stunned turkey vulture in our yard. Yep. Commonly known as a buzzard. Bald, red head. Big.

I also found myself becoming genuinely concerned for the little guy (or gal) as the day passed. I’ll digress for a moment. My son is bird lover and for the past few months we have immersed ourselves in learning about birds. If you ever get a chance to see The Life of Birds series, a BBC production, do it! It is hosted by the charming, elderly David Attenborough. You will find yourself absolutely stunned by God’s providence for the birds. His careful attention to the tiny but crucial details in a bird’s life will make you realize how big His hand is in ours. Truly, “His eye is on the sparrow…” So, after a few months of study, I too have become hooked on birds.

Now, back to Viking. (So named by my son.) We really didn’t think Viking was going to live. When we found him, his eyes were closed and he alternated between quivering and lying stone still. After placing the basket over him to protect him from any passing cats or dogs, we left the house for a few hours. When we came home, my son excitedly reported he was standing up with his eyes open. “And someone fed him some raw meat!” Huh? I walked over to Viking and thought surely my son was wrong about the health report. Flies were buzzing all around the basket. A vile stench permeated the air. But, sure enough, there was a bright eyeball looking at me through the basket. A little pile of something vaguely raw meatish was at his feet.

Okay, time to check this bird out. No, I did not lift the basket. Instead, I ran to the computer and found this nifty little site: The Vulture Society. Yes, my first thought was “A Vulture Society? I guess there is a society for everything.” But after reading about the lowly vulture, I really appreciate the little guys. They are clean birds. Their digestive juices are so acidic that their excretions are actually sanitizing. They excrete on their own legs to clean off the bacteria picked up from standing on carrion. Their heads, which necessarily have to poke and prod decaying flesh, are featherless, helping to again resist bacteria. They can soar without flapping for 6 hours. And, of course, they clean up the countryside of dead animals.

Why did ours stink so bad? One of their only defenses is to vomit up partially digested meat. This would send just about anybody packing.

When Viking started to move the basket around and stick his beak through the slats, trying to get out, I walked over to him to lift the basket. He hissed. I backed away. Hmmm, do vultures attack when scared? I hadn’t thought about that when I threw the basket over him.

Time to ask an expert. We found the phone number online of a rescuer. She instructed me to lift the basket from his backside and back away quickly. Yes ma’am. I’ll do that. Leaving my kids inside, armed with the cell phone, I feigned nonchalance and walked over to the basket (my kids were watching!), picked up a long stick, lifted the basket, and quickly backed up.

He didn’t move.

My “vicious” vulture sat there quietly and I was afraid that he was sick after all. I walked back inside, feeling quite like the wildlife rescuer in spite of my fear that things were not going to go too well. We watched him and over the hour, he began preening, stretching his wings, and finally, he flew home to the colony perched in the tall palms lining my street. We all cheered.

My son spent the evening watching the vultures soar above our yard. He was sure that Viking was rocking his wings in thanks. I love happy endings.


Filed under Babies & Kids, Giving Thanks, Homeschooling, Thoughts

Book Review: Baby by Patricia MacLachlan

My 10 year old tossed Baby by Patricia MacLachlan at the end of her bed last night. “That was sad” was her only comment.

Having an attraction to “sad” books, I immediately grabbed it and began reading it while putting my toddler to sleep. I stayed there until I finished. When I finished my side was numb and I had tears running down my face. What a beautiful book.

Patricia MacLachlan has a rare gift among storytellers. She writes stories poetically. I don’t mean she uses poetic phrases, as so many good authors do, but she composes poetically. She turns simple words, that could be read by any second grader, and makes a story that reads like one big poem. Each word is savored, never wasted. The wonderful thing is that readers none too fond of poetry would never have guessed that they just read a poem disguised as a story.

Baby (1993, Delacorte Press) might be my favorite among her stories. The author is probably best known for Sarah, Plain and Tall. Even non-readers may be familiar with the Hallmark movie version of the story. That book, although poetically written, translates well into a dramatic reproduction. Baby would not work so well.

Baby is about words and the power of words and the destruction in lives when words are withheld. Like a good layer cake, it is also about loss, pain, cycles, giving, and healing.

Twelve-year-old Larkin lives with her mom and dad on an island year round. The story opens at the end of summer, as the last summer ferry carries the tourists away until the next summer. One little island “guest” is left behind at Larkin’s home. An almost year old baby, Sophie, has been left by her mother with a note attached telling the family that “I will come back for her one day.” Sophie becomes the catalyst which brings about healing in Larkin’s family.

As the family takes in Sophie, they uncover the pain surrounding the loss of Larkin’s newborn brother, “Baby,” six months prior. Larkin’s parents never talk about him, never named him, and through their silence have isolated each other from themselves and from their daughter. The story unfolds beautifully as Larkin’s family cycles through fear of love, love for Sophie, then once again has to face loss again, when Sophie’s mother returns in the spring to claim her. During the story, Larkin discovers poetry and how words are “wondrous” and powerful, and through this power Larkin and her family find their way back from loss and pain.

Baby speaks powerfully to foster care, too. Larkin’s grandmother, with foresight, has the following conversation with Larkin:

“This is not meant to be easy,” she said, “It is a very important thing to do, for Sophie and especially for your mother and father. But it will not be easy. Do you understand?”

I understood. I did. I knew that what she meant was what Papa had said. Sophie was not ours. Someday she would go away. Another thing to miss.

“Why is it important?” I asked her…

“It is important, Larkin, because we are giving Sophie something to take away with her when she goes.”

“What?” asked Lalo [Larkin’s friend]. “What will she take with her?”

“Us,” said Byrd firmly.

“And what will we have when she’s gone?” I asked .

Byrd is silent. It takes the rest of the book for Larkin to have her answer.

I had a wonderful conversation this morning with my daughter about the book and the power of words. We were reminded of how God spoke world into being and how Jesus is called the Word made flesh. Words are ordained by our Creator to hold power…power to heal and soothe, and also power to hurt. MacLachlin’s book addresses how the absence of words can be just as harmful as the ill-used word and what blessings may flow when words are used to heal.


Filed under Babies & Kids, Book Reviews, Homeschooling, Words and Writing