Sunday, June 29, 2008

A New Hobby

One of my aunts scored an old sewing machine for me at a garage sale recently (after my mom put out the word I was interested) and my parents brought it with them. Mom helped me repair one of First Daughter's blankets last night. I sewed all the way around it! The cabinet is a little shaky, but I'm pleased. It can do all sorts of things I won't be trying anytime soon, given that two weeks before a third baby is due isn't quite the best time to pick up a new hobby. I'm excited to be a sewing machine owner, though. Because I wish I had paid attention when my mom tried to teach me to sew when I was younger, I'm going to make sure my kids know the basics (you know...once I figure them out myself). It fits right in with the Charlotte Mason philosophy, too.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Putting His Feet Up

This evening, I convinced myself it would be ok to skip going to the gym with Kansas Dad as long as I scrubbed the bathtub. I spent the better part of an hour on it, thinking the whole time how to cleverly post about how it might be my nesting kicking in (though I think it's really just because we'd all hit our limit on grossness and my parents are arriving tomorrow).

Just as I'm finishing up, I get a call from Kansas Dad, who claims he's "sprained" his ankle badly and I need to come pick up the kids. The Y calls a few minutes later and tells me they think he's broken it!

I arrive in time to watch the ambulance drive away. (I considered trying to wave them down, but figured with our luck I'd get run over.)

After some kid-juggling and driving about 30 minutes out of my way, I finally arrive at the hospital. (Note to self: Buy map of the area to keep in the van.) Kansas Dad was released a short time later. Apparently, he had dislocated the ankle and was in quite a bit of pain until they got it set right again. (I'm pretty glad I missed that part.)

So he's got his leg in this hard splint thing. I know we're really very lucky it wasn't worse, but I envisioned the last few weeks without baby a little differently. Now we're going to be juggling childcare and getting him to work and home for his night classes.

Thank goodness my parents are already on their way. They'll arrive tomorrow evening. The rest of the house may not be clean. It may not even be tidy. But the bathtub is sparkling!

Motherhood on My Mind

Well, no baby yet (which isn't too surprising but I always have hope). I did catch this little video on another favorite blog of mine, which suits my present state of mind.

And, yes, Brandy, it made me cry. But only a little.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Dead Computer

It's had issues in the past and today it died. All I did was push the box back a bit on the shelf and everything went kaput.

I am displeased.

Kansas Dad found a lead online so we're going to try replacing a part. Then we'll take it to a local shop to ask them to fix it.

I'm just praying it can be repaired.

And yes, this means even fewer pictures until we figure out what to do.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Swamped with Books

I've been able to find some time recently to focus on reading. I've been reading a lot of books on Charlotte Mason's methods, some fiction and a bunch of books off my reading list...but all I seem to have done is increase my backlog. It seems like every book I read leads me to three others I want to read.

Does anyone else have this problem?

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


We like to ask the kids what we should name the baby. Usually, First Daughter suggests "Mama" and First Son's initial response is nearly always Mookie.

Last night at dinner, Kansas Dad and I were doing the suggesting and the kids were laughing as we tossed around names like Grammy, Asparagus, and Fork.

Kansas Dad mentioned Mookie and First Son immediately responded "We can call the baby Mookie, but what should we name the baby?" with my exact inflections.

So Kansas Dad suggested Bob. First Son laughed, "No, then the baby will turn all red!"

Monday, June 23, 2008

Full Term Today

Well, we made it and now we're in the homestretch. I still expect baby to lounge around a while longer in the womb so don't get too excited if I miss a day or two of blogging. It could just mean I'm tired or my wrist hurts (my tendonitis tends to flare up during pregnancy).

Or maybe, just maybe, we'll be meeting Third Baby in person!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Parenting with a Sense of Humor

My parents love to tell the story of a morning when my brother and I (when we were much younger, of course), made breakfast for ourselves. First, we dumped a bunch of Cheerios on the floor. Then, we poured the milk.

Oh yes, milk, right on the floor, digging in happily.

My mother (as she tells it), had to back up after seeing the mess to laugh before coming out to scold us.

This morning, Kansas Dad and I had a preview of that breakfast from the other side. We let the kids get up and stayed in bed for a few minutes, talking. Suddenly, we heard First Son, "Oh! You have the Cheerios!"

Then we heard the box emptying on to the carpet, just as I was saying, "She's probably going to dump those out." She didn't make a nice neat pile, though. She shook that bag so Cheerios spread for feet in all directions.

It wasn't too bad, being Cheerios. It helped that Kansas Dad helped her pick up the mess, not me. I couldn't help thinking, though, that if she'd gotten out the milk and poured it on my first instinct would not have been to laugh!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I had a slight meltdown earlier this week when I realized the baby was due in less than a month and we were completely unprepared - no clothes washed and ready, no names picked out, no bag packed (I can't even remember what should be in it), nothing!

So a few days ago we picked names, boy and girl. I felt better as Kansas Dad knew I would. (It really was just a slight meltdown; we're probably in for worse before the birth.) I can't share the names (even if I did share names on this blog, we like to keep them a secret until baby is born), but I can tell you a few of the ones we did not choose: Darwin (you know, so he'd stand out in the crowd of homeschooled kids), Egbert (Kansas Dad always suggests this one), Darth, Homer, and a bunch of classical and theological guys I can't remember and probably couldn't spell if I did. In case you were wondering, these were mainly Kansas Dad's suggestions.

Today we pulled out all the newborn boxes. Guess how many boxes of newborn stuff we had in the garage?

Did you guess?

Eight. That's right. Eight boxes of newborn clothes and accessories! In our defense, one whole box was cloth diapers and another mainly held the bouncer seat. Still, that's crazy. It could have been even more. Most of the girl clothes went back to my sister-in-law after my daughter finished wearing them. So, I sorted through them a bit and pulled out a few neutral things and all those little white onesies to wash. I also have one set each of boy clothes and girl clothes to pack for the hospital.

Come to think of it, there may be another box in the garage somewhere. I didn't see the bunting my son wore. It would be too small for baby by the time winter comes, but it does mean there's probably at least one more box...


[Update: Nine boxes. And the bunting is in a different box of winter clothing which I didn't count because it includes lots of non-newborn sizes. I am not saving all of these clothes after baby #3 is done with them!]

Friday, June 20, 2008

Get Used to this Look, Kid

Based purely on genetics, it's very likely you'll be picking out glasses of your own eventually. In the meantime, let's give those back to Dada before something happens to them and we have to buy a new pair.

Suggestions for a Baby Book?

Most of our baby book milestones are recorded on the blogs, but I like having something on paper, too, something in my own handwriting with a few choice pictures. I went a little crazy with my son's baby book. It has so much stuff taped in it, it doesn't fit in the little box anymore! I found one that is a little less involved for First Daughter. Both of these were great little books (which I highly recommend!), but now I need another one. (I like to have something different for each.)

I'm looking for something easy to fill in, especially since I can guarantee I'll just be filling it in based on the blog when I have a few moments here and there. (Still working on First Daughter's...though I hope to be caught up before baby #3 is born.) Of course, it should also be cute! I'd also prefer something that isn't based on a particular character or group of characters.

Any suggestions?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

She's At It Again

I thought to myself, She's buckled into her seat at the much mayhem can she cause? and turned to tackle some dishes. Three minutes later, I find this:

In theory, it's washable marker. I'm seriously considering throwing away all the non-washable ones we have. I just don't think we can supervise her closely enough!

Of course, it could have been worse. She could have drawn on her face.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

A Boy and His Dog

She Can See!

Kansas Dad did a great job trimming First Daughter's bangs tonight. (He was worried my clumsy pregnant hands might slip...I didn't argue.)

First Daughter, it's so good to see your eyes again!

First Daughter's Facial

First Daughter has a habit of getting into stuff. Yesterday, while her brother and dad were occupied with shark endeavors, she was munching on some cereal. Kansas Dad didn't notice when she finished the box and then helped herself to a hamburger bun. Today, she was playing with her lemon cupcake instead of eating it, but I let that slide. Then she started to "paint" her sippy cup with lemon icing and I let that go as well. After all, maybe she'll be a great artist someday. A few minutes later, I turned to check on her and found this:

I guess she felt her skin needed some extra oil.

Flying Fish

Monday, June 16, 2008

Rainy Day Activity

Grammy was sick today. (Feel better soon!) Kansas Dad took over childcare duties but was thwarted by the thunderstorms that kept them inside all day. First Son really wanted to go back to the zoo, but was finally convinced it would be ok to stay home and make a shark. We pulled out our activity book (borrowed from the library, but highly recommended) and he went to work. He did everything himself except the taping.

Then First Son drew and cut out a bunch of fish for the shark to eat (when he wasn't taking nips from First Daughter and Kansas Dad or the killer whale).

Sunday, June 15, 2008

You Try Reasoning with a 20 Month Old

Punished by Rewards: The Trouble with Gold Stars, Incentive Plans, A's, Praise, and Other Bribes by Alfie Kohn

This book was not what I expected; it was much better. Packed with references to actual studies and logical reasoning, I was won over. Punishments and rewards do not help children develop into the considerate, thoughtful, fulfilled people we want them to be. That includes time outs and verbal praise. So, are we eliminating all rewards and punishments on the range?, certainly not in the short run. More on that later.

Dr. Kohn gives lots of reasons why rewards and punishments fail (all with references to actual studies). In fact, he claims he can't find any well-down studies showing their success (other than in short-term situations, most of which showed detrimental effects over the long-term). Of course, I did not do my own review of the research, so I'll take him at his word. I could sum up his reasons, but I didn't take notes and don't want to skim through the whole book again. You'll have to read it yourself. I found this quote to the point:

Rewards are not actually solutions at all; they are gimmicks, shortcuts, quick fixes that mask problems and ignore reasons. They never look below the surface.

My sister said something to me this week that struck me along with this quote. She had expectations of her daughter that were not being met and realized recently that she had not yet explained to her daughter what she wanted. The punishments had been useless, but after a brief demonstration, my niece immediately understood what was expected and everyone is happier. Of course, here's also the source of my title. He suggests we talk with our four year old who wakes constantly in the night to discern the reason he keeps awakening. First Son isn't usually coherent enough during the night (certainly not verbally coherent enough) to say anything other than he's having bad dreams. He does pretty well most nights, but I've yet to have any luck at all asking my 20 month old daughter why she wakes and cries for hours on ends some nights. So we're left to our own devices and the scientific method - try something for a week or so and see if it makes a difference. In the meantime, at least he supports our decisions to (most of the time) "reward" her behavior by going to her crib and attempting to soothe her rather than just letting her cry.

The verbal praise is the one that's the hardest to stop. I find myself always complimenting my son when he shares or is helpful around the house. It's probably the most difficult habit to break. Dr. Kohn proposes a number of reasons why this kind of praise isn't producing the result I'm seeking (a 15 year old son who will help his sister with her report while he does the dishes for me without a request). Mainly, we don't want to convince our kids they should be good only when someone is watching and may praise them. We want them to consider the needs and desires of those around them and serve as Christ would. So how do we teach that?

It may feel at first as if we are withholding praise and therefore being stingy with our approval. What matters, though, is whether our responses are offered in such a way as to communicate warmth and concern. If so, children will be encouraged rather than frustrated by what we say.

I've been experimenting with this a little by commenting on what happened like "Your sister is very happy sharing your killer whale. Now you can be the fish. Run away!" (Yes, actual example of a common occurrence on the range.) I'm not sure this is exactly what he's suggesting. I'm trying to focus my son's attention on his sister's feelings and the fun they can have together rather than my pleasure at seeing him share a much-loved toy.

Dr. Kohn is not suggesting we stop giving hugs or kisses. He's just reminding us we need to show our love all the time, regardless of behavior.

What they [children] need is unconditional approval and acceptance--the very opposite of verbal rewards, and especially of Tough Praise.

We all know rewards work in the short-term. If I threaten my son with a time-out, he always immediately does whatever I want. (I doubt this tactic will work as well with my daughter so it's good I'm expanding my skill base.)

[W]e need to be aware of the costs of these quick fixes: rather than rationalizing them as being in the child's best interest, we ought to face the fact that behavioral manipulation is ultimately detrimental. Let us be honest when we reward or punish by asking ourselves for whom we are doing it (them or us?) and for what (the development of good values or mere obedience?).

The quote above is within the context of a passage where Dr. Kohn is admitting we're all going to keep using rewards and punishments to some extent. There are times when parents are tired or occupied and we jump to the fastest method. He's not condoning it, but here he's asking us to avoid justifying it by saying it's for the child. It's not. It's so we can get dinner on the table at a reasonable time when there are twenty other things to do and the kids are not helping (in a variety of ways).

There are a few chapters that deal specifically with the workplace (which was fascinating as an employee), education (specifically in schools) and at home. I was interested in the education ones because we plan to homeschool. (The author would be pleased at the ability to avoid grades for anything; which also aligns nicely with Charlotte Mason's methods. I think they'd get along well.)

The job of educators is neither to make students motivated nor to sit passively; it is to set up the conditions that make learning possible. The challenge, as two psychologists put it, is n to wait "until an individual is interested...[but to offer. a stimulating environment that can be perceived by students as [presenting] vivid and valued options which can lead to successful learning and performance." (words within the quote added by the author)

Motivation comes from within and the author argues convincingly that rewards only decrease internal motivation. There were relatively few actual strategies he could suggest, just generalities (for educators and parents), which makes this book a bit more difficult as a parenting aid than otherwise. It requires us to address each child and situation individually. We all know that's probably the best way to handle situations...but also the most difficult! (Dr. Kohn admits he had little to offer in this area because his very premise requires different approaches, depending on the reasons for a child's behavior.)

In my view, there are two fundamentally different ways one can respond to a child who does something wrong. One is to impose a punitive consequence. Another is to see the situation as a "teachable moment," an opportunity to educate or to solve a problem together. The response here is not "You've misbehaved; now here's what I'm going to do to you" but "Something has gone wrong; what can we do about it?"

I think this will be great...when the kids are older. (In fact, it reminded me of another insightful book I read years ago that taught me tactics I've used all the time, not just with kids.) It can be very difficult to convince a four year old that he must wear clothes (rather than pajamas) to go to the zoo. As far as he's concerned, he's clothed! First Daughter doesn't want to take the time to change her diaper when she's not dirty. She's satisfied; why aren't we? (How to you explain to a 20 month old the physics of a very wet diaper attempting to contain a dirty mess?)I still think I could do more to explain to my kids why we're doing something when they are balking. I just may do the explaining while I physically carry First Daughter to the changing table. (I carry First Son less, but he's more likely to eventually concede the point.)

Good parenting is not defined by which decision one makes in each instance so much as by the willingness to thing about these decisions--as opposed to the tendency to say no habitually and to demand mindless obedience to mindless restrictions.

I liked this last quote the best. It's a reminder to myself that I can consider the research in this book and attempt to apply it to life with my kids without feeling like I need to be having philosophical discussions every five minutes on the reasons we brush teeth. If I can't convince them, they're going to brush their teeth anyway because I am the parent and I really do know best!

Dr. Kohn doesn't seem thrilled with the thought that parents are trying to stay in control, but he hasn't convinced me entirely that we shouldn't be in control as parents. In general, I think we'll try to avoid rewards and punishments (away with that sticker chart that's been half-filled on our fridge for five months) but in the end we'll find a balance.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

All Done with School

Today was their last day at the day care center they've been attending. First Son has been going two days a week for almost three years. It's hard to believe it's been so long! It's strange to think they won't go back, but it's for the best. Kansas Dad will watch them on Tuesdays and Thursdays through the end of the year and then we'll see. It's great his schedule works that way (though it is time he could be spending on academic pursuits). We really feel it's better for them to be with family than at day care...not to mention we'll save a ton of money!

I don't think they really understand when we say they won't be going back. Hopefully they'll have so much fun with Kansas Dad they won't feel sad.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

House Hunting

I suppose this is a momentous post to say we've finally started house hunting, but it's still a bit premature.

We did go look at a house this morning - a house that needs much more work than we're prepared to devote to it (like new roof, wiring fixes, walls to build, and on and on). We're expecting to need to work on any house we can afford on the kind of land we want, but we're not looking for something that's been "fixed" by a couple of different home-owners that didn't know what they were doing.

The land was really nice, though. It had five acres, lots of trees and even a little pond.

We're not really house hunting yet. I have no interest in buying a house with a baby due in five weeks. (Originally, I told Kansas Dad I wouldn't even look until baby was six weeks old.) Plus, we have all those plants we want to harvest before we move.

The good news is, we expect to be able to afford about 20% more than the house we saw today was priced, so there's hope for something better in our price range. (No, we haven't been pre-approved or done anything like that yet. As I said, we're not really in the market.)

It was kind of fun to go visit a house, though.

Monday, June 9, 2008


First Son's aunt and uncle brought him a cool castle puzzle from France. He hasn't even had a chance to put it together yet, but today decided he would attempt it upside-down.

Our First Peas

We learned two things.

1. These peas are a hundred times better than what we buy at the store.

2. We didn't plant nearly enough of them. Next year, we want ten times as much! (We still have some out on the plants, of course, but we already know it won't be enough.)

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Missing Money?

As I mentioned before, I've been cruising frugal blogs a lot in the past few months in an effort to send even more money to our savings account. Last week, I read this post and started searching for missing money. There wasn't any for me, but I found Kansas Dad in the database. He filled out the paperwork today and we'll be getting about $100 that's been sitting around waiting for him for the past ten years. Not too shabby for ten minutes of his time.

They're adding new states in the next few months, so be sure to check back if you didn't find anything yet.

Saturday, June 7, 2008


We went to the farmer's market today, but didn't see anything we needed. The kids found something, though -- balloons! A very nice clown makes balloon animals (and airplanes). First Daughter insisted on one when she saw her brother's airplane, but was a little bit scared of the clown when we got there. (Who isn't?) He was very understanding and made her a puppy, despite her shyness. She was thrilled!

Friday, June 6, 2008


We put First Daughter's pajamas on backwards tonight so she couldn't get them off.

Garden Shots

These pictures are a week old now, but I didn't want to miss sharing them.

See the pea pods? We were surprised to learn they unfurl (not grow out).

The pot in the middle holds our crazy heirloom tomato plant. It apparently loves all the rain (and hail) we've been getting because it's about four times as big as any of the hybrid tomatoes. We plan to try to save some seeds from it (which seems to be a bit of a tricky task, but we figure we haven't anything to lose).

Indian blanket - one of the native plants we bought last year that managed to survive the swamp of the front garden. It's supposed to attract bees and butterflies, but we haven't seen too many yet.

Some of our pak choy. We've been eating lots of stir fry and lots of salad to use the pak choy and lettuce we've grown.

A little hanging basket to end. Our hanging baskets just have flowers now. (We've moved the strawberries to the ground because they weren't getting enough light hanging on the porch.) We have to keep a close eye on these baskets; the birds like to swipe the dried edges for their nests!

Not Much to Report

It's been a quiet week here on the blog. We've been having the usual summer fun - bubbles, sprinklers, chalk, watching bugs...but I haven't even taken pictures this week. (I do have some garden pictures to share; maybe I'll get to those later tonight.) We did have some excitement last night when the tornado sirens went off. The activity was far enough away, we piled into the car and headed to Grammy and Paw Paw's house. By the time we got there (driving slowly through the monsoon slamming sideways into the van), the warning was canceled. So we had a nice dinner and came back home for a late bedtime.

I've been thinking about some topics for posts, but haven't had the energy to write anything coherent on them. Here's a sampling:

1. My ankles have disappeared.

2. I gained five pounds in the last two weeks. That's according to my doctor's scale. I think it must be malfunctioning.

3. When Kansas Dad is reaching breaking point with First Daughter's refusal to go back to sleep at night, he gets angry. When I reach the same point, I get weepy.

4. Summer maternity wardrobes should be based on skirts. I love my skirts. They have very comfortable elastic waists (unlike my jeans, which no longer fit) and are very cool in the warm weather.

5. My new washing machine is wonderful. I find myself kneeling a lot to put clothes in and take them out (so I don't have to stoop over, which is not recommended for very pregnant women, or anyone really). Rather than pout about how we didn't spend the $200 on the pedestal, I try to remind myself to pray. After all, I'm already on my knees. There's also something very satisfying about praying for my family while I'm working to provide clean clothes for us all.

6. We have a lot of stuff. I've been starting a personal property inventory before we renew our renters' insurance (if you rent and don't have it, get it!) so we can be sure we're adequately covered. We've been clearing stuff out, so most of what's left are kid clothes and baby toys. I just can't bring myself to give them away when we might need them for baby #3. We also have a lot of books. They're everywhere! I doubt that's ever going to change, even though we're trying to be much more careful about the books we buy (previewing just about all of them at the library).

7. Being almost 8 months pregnant is tiring.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Showing Off

On good mornings, the kids chatter and play in their room for a while before calling for us. (First Son won't get out of bed until we come in; First Daughter can't - yet.) We heard them off and on for a while before First Son started calling for Mama. Kansas Dad headed in and found First Daughter in her crib without pajamas or a diaper. Well, they were still in the crib, but no longer on her!

A while later, she pretty much got her shirt and shorts on by herself. (I had to help get the shirt the rest of the way over her head.) First Son still complains about getting dressed by himself. Is this a difference between sons and daughters, between first and second kids or just between First Son and First Daughter?