Sunday, December 25, 2011

Christmas Decorating Magic

Do you notice the magic in this photo?

I know the picture's kind of blurry, but if you look closely, you will see all of the hanging loops for the stockings are falling forward limply.  this is because they are not holding them up.  In fact, the stockings are not hanging from anything.  They are fuzzy enough that if I pressed them up against the rough brickwork, they just stuck.  Pretty cool, huh?

Non-Hypopregniatic Confessions (In other words, no pictures, but lots of typing)

I don't think "guilty pleasure" is quite the right term but I can't think of a better one right now.  But this is a confession:  I'm hooked on Asian romantic dramas.  Especially if they have subtitles.  Subtitles make me feel high-brow and cultural, even if the content is ridiculous.

When I first started this post, it was going to be purely about anime series depicting High School romance.  This was a double guilt, because not only is it frivolous, but I also disapprove of High School romances in general, and try to avoid them in English when I can. But somehow the subtitles seduce me into reasoning that they must be more mature.  After all, they are speaking a foreign language!

Since initiating this post, I have also found myself sucked in to Korean dramas on Hulu.  Oh, Hulu!  You are my blessing and my curse!  Somehow I think I rationalize that since they take place in a different country that speaks a different language, then indulging in them is actually a cultural experience, and I am learning about people from around the world.  In all reality I am probably learning about as much as someone would learn about the realities of life in the US by watching daytime TV.  One thing that I do like is that the culture that is portrayed is one that values morality.  Though some of the shows I have seen have used a child born out of wedlock as a plot device, it is treated as the anomaly it should be.  9 times out of 10 the climax of a romantic moment is a hug, rather than a kiss, and quite often in a public place.  I really appreciate the underlying assumption of a standard of morality that is more in line with my own.  That is rarely if ever the case for modern American romances.  Some of the plots, if you try to sum up all 50 episodes in a few paragraphs, come across sounding like a soap opera--children switched at birth, near fatal accidents, amnesia, faked deaths, secret biological relationships (an unknown father, brother, or child).  I've since learned that they actually have a word in Korean that means just that--makjang--a dramatic plot device that seems contrived and absurd by the standards of reality.  But the very absurdity is somehow comforting to me.  Of course the ridiculously handsome, arrogant, spoiled rich boy has a friend who has to work hard to earn a living while trying to go to school and dodge the debt collectors who are after his gambling-addict father that he hasn't seen in two years.  Wait, haven't I heard that be fore?  No, that was the other gambling-addict father with debt collectors harassing his children who has been missing for 2 years who just happened to show up back at home just days before his daughter begins to suspect that she might have been switched with a rich girl at birth (she was--meaning she was actually supposed to be the rich girl).

One thing that they consistently do to me (by they I mean the Korean dramas I have seen and also the one Chinese romantic comedy-drama) is paint out characters in situations where you don't even know which of the guys you want the girl to end up with until the very end (it's usually one girl and a question of guys in my experience so far).  They just give you such good reasons for each of them, and you just die to see how it resolves in the end to make everyone come out with a happy match.  It's sort of Jane Austen like in that.  Maybe that's also why I love them.

Maybe someday I'll loop back around to the Japanese High School Romance Anime that I was enamored with before and I can expound upon their beloved vices, but right now all my free watching time and so my self-evaluation and sophistry is consumed with Korean Drama.  That's not such a bad indulgence, is it?

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Quiet time

I went to check on the kids having quiet time in their bedroom to find Rhys clad thusly:
He told me he had to take his shirt off so he could put that purple dress on.  As it was made for a 9 month old Willow, it only fit around his neck.  I might consider beginning to question our treatment of gender roles in our family if I wasn't absolutely certain that, if questioned, Rhys would say something like the flower headband "shoots guns out" and the plastic shoe "is for killing."

Friday, December 23, 2011

Advanced Family Yoga

I tried to get Rhys to join the egg stack, but he was afraid of trying to balance on Willow's back.  But they were still pretty darn cute.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Neoma's Cute Snack

Neoma made these turkey sandwiches for November's DUP meeting.  And she said she filled her cute-making quota for the year with Peter!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Our New Door

It makes cool pictures.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Breakfast of Champions

I sent a bunch of pictures to my blog and never got around to publishing them... until now.  So here they come, a trickling...........

Yes, that is bacon on Nutella on a crepe.  Courtesy of Rhys.  And no, he didn't like it.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Boing

As Rhys only has a tentative grasp on his "Big Boy" status (i.e. always going potty in the potty), I have been calling him out whenever he does the peepee dance and insisting that he go to the bathroom.  I try to point out to him that his body is telling him that it needs to go potty and it is very important to listen to his body so that he doesn't have an accident.  He often tries to hide or deny the fact that he is quite clearly "dancy in his pants," as we call it.  The other day we were at the table and he was kneeling on his chair.  I saw him bouncing up and down on his knees with the characteristic rhythm of the need to go, so I told him, "Rhys, you are getting dancy in your pants.  Your body is telling you that it needs to go potty."  He emphatically stated, "No, I am boinging." As if this made a difference.  I made him go any way.

A day or so later I saw him cross his legs and then hold his crotch.  I told him that when  he wants to hold his crotch it is because his body it telling him that he needs to go potty.  He told me, "No.  When I hold it, it feels like a boing."  I think he was hearkening back to his recent most favorite explanation for why what he was doing didn't mean he needs to go potty.  Never mind that it didn't work the first time, and it didn't work this time.

But the funniest was yesterday when he had wet his pants and I noticed as we were on our way to bed.  I said, "Rhys, your pants are wet.  You went peepee in your pants."  To which he replied, "No!  It is just a wet boing."

Maybe I  need to start telling him, "Boings go in the Potty."

Monday, November 14, 2011

Don't You Know a Wild Animal When You See One?

Rhys just came upstairs from quiet time.  Downstairs somewhere, there is one naked little teddy bear.  Suprised that he could have gotten the dress and bloomers off the bear and onto himself so well (albeit inside out and backward), I asked if he did it himself or if Willow helped him.  I asked him a couple of times, trying to get him to admit that Willow helped, but finally he said, "I put it on me, Mommy, because I want to be a wild amimal."  And then he did this soft, cougar-like "Aaaach" and lunged at me.  I'm still laughing so hard I can hardly type.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Look! I did a Decorate!

Sometime a couple of months ago, I finally got to painting the rest of the bunkbeds dark brown.  When I purchased them at a garage sale for $15, they were red, blue, and yellow.  I got a great idea to change that last Christmas and Kevin painted one of the beds that we then made into a castle in the kid's room.  I also made them each a new blanket with stripes of blue, green and purple flannel on teh front and dark brown furriness on the back.  The kids shared the one bed until just recently when they started getting too big and too annoying to eachother.  Kevin kept being out of town so I finally just did it myself.  I even went to the hardware store and got new bolts to replace the ones that were stripped so I could screw the side rails and the ladder in place, all by myself!  (It only took 3 trips to get the right ones, but thankfully, Home Depot takes back open baggies of bolts.)  I got the beds put together, and Neoma eventually bought a new mattress so we could have our second one back, and the kids got their own beds.  It makes my heart melt of satisfaction (I hope it's not pride, because then I will have to try to give it up) to see their beds made with their matching blankets.  They seem to like it, too.
Notice also the matching dark wood furniture.  I even secured the shelves to the bed so they can't be knocked down (anymore).  Ignore the askew ceiling panels.  One of my favorite things about this bunk bed is that it is relatively short.  I can see over the rail while standing on the floor and it fits on the step in the kids room (Half of their floor is raised about 1.5 feet) and still leaves Willow room to maneuver.  Yay!  I did it.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Tomatoes Galore

I came home from the last cleanup day at the community garden with 5 boxes of tomatoes in varying stages of green.  After putting it off for 2 weeks, I finally tackled the 5 boxes of tomatoes now in varying stages of decay.    I milled the ripe ones and froze the puree to make into tomato sauce later.  The quandry I had was how to store the still unripe ones so that they get sunlight so they will ripen.  Neoma offered the garden window in her kitchen (if I cleaned out and cleaned up all the dead houseplants), but that still left the question of what to put them in that I could sort and keep track of what was how close.  Then I remembered this gigantic vase that Kevin's mom gave us.  That sent me on a hunt throughout the house for all the large glass vases and the result:
Tomato Aranging

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Yesterday's Lunch

The kitchen has exploded.  Neoma ran away upstairs because she couldn't handle it and I am trying to do the dishes (it is my day, after all).  I'm trying to find where all the plates and silverware has hidden itself.

Today as I was setting the table for dinner the cupboard was bare of the dishes we normally use.  I opened the dishwasher, and it, too, was bare.  I peered around the kitchen, behind boxes of tomatoes in various stages of green and decay that I am trying desperately to sort so I can be done with, behind dirty mixing bowls and frying pans, and I come to the conclusion that they have been abducted.  We eat on paper plates, with plastic forks and paper cups--I want no new dishes added to this mess tonight.

As I am now herding the various utensils and vessels out of their hiding places, seeking the ninety and nine (I wish it were only one who had strayed) I find, behind the stacked griddles and crusty pancake bowl of this mornings' breakfast, a small stack of plates, the top one overflowing with chips--delicious Tostito's baked scoops.  A few are smeared with the sour cream, that, together with those chips, constituted my 2-year-old's entire meal, but most of them are crisp and clean.

My first thought is, "Yesterday's lunch!  This is yesterday's lunch!"  As I gather the chips and carry the plates to the sink, the back of my mind it contemplating: the chicken bowl, or my mouth?  The front of my mind is still thinking, "How could I not have caught these dishes sooner?  Yesterday's lunch?!  Cummon, Carol, you Sloven!"  As the back of my mind quickly determines that these clean chips are much too good for the chicken bowl in their entirety, the front of my mind suddenly realizes, "Oh, wait, I think this was actually today's lunch.  Oh, yeah.  We had taco salad today, I remember."  And then I also realized that I was crunching away on chips without even knowing how many days they had been sitting on the counter bedaubed with sour cream.

Um, yeah.

Monday, November 7, 2011

Parental Discernment (i.e. tickling your gums)

I am so grateful that Heavenly Father wants us to be good parents, and that he helps us.

For the last several months, Rhys has been complaining whenever I brushed his teeth, saying, "Ow, ow, ow," whenever the brush touched his gums.  I usually promised to go softer and he would let me try again, but it got to the point that I was brushing so softly I don't think it was really having any effect.  At one point when he was really complaining, I looked in his mouth and realized it was entirely covered in canker sores.  I was fairly certain that this had not always been the case, but I did go really easy on him at that time.

This was driving me crazy.  His gums should not hurt like this, especially with no visible sign of injury or inflammation or anything.  At our last dental checkup, I asked the hygienist for advice.  She recommended using baby Oragel on his gums before brushing.  We had some adult, overnight Oragel (a topical medication for toothache relief), and, being the cheap-o that I am, I used a small portion of that.  Rhys was generally OK with me brushing his teeth after putting that on, but I just could not accept this as a long-term solution, as it didn't give me an answer as to what was wrong or offer a physiological solution.  What I was doing simply should not be hurting normal, healthy gums.

I was still frustrated with this predicament when, one evening during teeth brushing time, it hit me--maybe it doesn't actually hurt.  Maybe the sensation of the brush on his gums is just triggering the idea of pain, for some reason.  I decided the best I could do was try and see if it worked, trusting that my mother's intuition (i.e. special powers of discernment) were not leading me to lie to my child.  So before I started brushing his teeth I said, "Rhys, you know the feeling of when I am brushing your teeth?  That is not a hurting feeling.  It is a tickle.  So when I am brushing your teeth, don't say 'Ow.'  Laugh.  Can I try tickling your teeth now?"  He let me, and he didn't make a single "Ow" the entire time.  Since then I have asked him "May I tickle your teeth?" instead of "May I brush your teeth?" and he has let me without interruption (except to tell me all the different animals that are on his teeth that he needs me to tickle with the brush).

I am so grateful for the little whisper of an idea that led to the solution for Rhys and toothbrushing.  I don't think anything but inspiration would have led me to seek a psychological rather than physiological cause to the problem.  Heavenly Father surely loves parents.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Recycling Food--It's Not Just for Monkeys?

Rhys is so close to being independently potty trained.  Right now I would consider him semi-dependently potty trained.  For the last couple of days he has been deciding on his own to go potty instead of only waiting for me to take him or having an accident.  And he can take care of business in the bathroom pretty much by himself, except that when he decides himself that he needs to go, it's so close that I often follow him to hurry him along to avoid a puddle on the bathroom rug.  I have taught him to take his pants all the way off and sit backwards on the potty (Thanks for the idea, Mom V!)--it's easier for him to keep himself from falling in and it's the only way I've found to make sure he gets #1 down in instead of on the back of his pants (he hasn't figured out holding it down yet).  I also don't trust him to wipe himself after #2 yet.

This was just preface so you will know where we are at when today's poopisode occurred.

I had just left Rhys in the bathroom after wiping him so he could climb off, clean his hands, and get dressed by himself.  After a few minutes, I hear distressed cries coming from the bathroom.  I went back to where I could see him and he is still sitting on the potty, looking down into it, fussing something that I can't quite understand.  I went in to him and finally deciphered what he was saying: "My food!  I dropped it in there!  I need my food!  Get it out!"  I looked in where he was looking (being backwards, he had a good view down into the bowl) and saw that some of the #2 had what was obviously poorly digested remnants of last nights dinner and this mornings breakfast in it.  Thinking I must be missing something, I asked him again, and again he pointed toward the poo and cried (literally--tears running down his cheeks), "I need my food!  I want to eat it!"  I tried to explain to him.  I tried really hard, but I could only get a few words into it before I started laughing so hard I had to cover my face and turn away--he was seriously in distress!  Finally I told him that it wasn't food anymore.  It was poopoo.  I explained where poopoo came from, that sometimes it still looks like the food we ate, but it is not food any more, it is yuck, poo, garbage, and we flush it away.  He said, "Oh," and "OK," but when I got him off the toilet and flushed it, he started crying again, mourning for his lost food and mortified that I had callously refused to rescue it for him and in stead savagely plunged it into the oblivion of the sewer pipes.  I reassured him that as soon as he came upstairs he could finish the lunch that was interrupted by the potty break, so he would have plenty of food.  Finally his tears stopped and he was able to get dressed again.  He's now playing happily with the other kids, and I doubt he will ever remember the Poopisode of the Flushed Food, but I will.  Oh, boy, will I.

No wonder gorillas eat their own poo.  If my two-year-old thinks his looks like food, they're probably just thinking, "Hey!  Who left all this food sitting here? Can't let it go to waste!"

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Meaningless Dreams?

I dreamt two nights ago that we got the children we have been desiring to foster. The person we've been working with to become licensed came to the door unexpectedly with all three children and told us, "You got them! Here they are!" I took the baby in my arms and I couldn't keep myself from crying. My already children and my new children started playing while I held the baby and cried, trying to listen to the rest of what the social worker was telling me.
I have had some crazy dreams at times. I have had dreams that we're undeniably messages--visions, if you will. I have had dreams from which I learned something or experienced something I could never have done in real life. And then I have had dreams that are very comforting and I wish I were dreaming truely, but I just cannot say that I am, because I don't know.
I have had meaningless dreams before. I have had dreams I really hope are meaningless ( no, I don't actually want to be Spiderman punching hybrid supervillians in the face). And then there are dreams like this one. I hope and I want so badly for it to be true. But is it meaningless? Does it really have no reflection in reality? If nothing else, I recognize the peace and comfort that came through it as the peace of faith and trust in the Lord. Whatever is or is not in store for the future of our family, I know that He is in charge of it, and in the end all will be right , whole, and perfect. (If it isn't, it isn't the end yet, right?)

Snow Man Snack

Willow was so sad that Sam started going to preschool this year while she stayed home that I told her we could have home preschool.  Part of this, twice a week, we have a special snack.  Every once in a while I have a good idea.  So I took pictures.
This is the example one I made:

Here is Willow and the ones she made:

The rounds are bananas, chocolate chips for the eyes and buttons, pretzel sticks for arms, and a strip of apple peel for the scarf.  They are all stuck on a peanut-butter covered graham cracker.  In future, I think I would use a full graham cracker.  Other than that, I thought they turned out well and had lots of little learning benefits in the kids making them--fine motor skills in placing things, fractions in breaking the pretzels in half and trying to get them even, dividing in making sure they have the right number of chocolate chips for each of the two that they made.  And they were fun, and they were yummy!  What more could you want?

Thursday, November 3, 2011

Pictures at the Temple

Just before Kevin left this last time, we took the kids to walk around the temple grounds.  

It had been raining, so we brought a towel to cover the bench before we sat down.  If you notice--I'm sitting with the towel over my lap.  That's because I preferred the bench's wet to Rhys'.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Bustin' out the Big Breads

I let myself slack off in making bread.  I used to do it every week and a half or so--8 loaves at a time, so I didn't have to make it more often than that.  But I got out of the habit over the summer as I was inundated with vegetables from the garden and every spare moment in the kitchen went into preserving.  Neoma would buy bread at Costco that we liked a lot, and always kept a couple of loaves in the freezer for back-up in case we ran out of bread and I couldn't make more for a couple of days.  So, we ran out of bread and I didn't make more for a couple of months.  So we started buying "emergency bread" at Costco 6 or 8 loaves at a time.  But I volunteered to bring bread to FAT to force myself to make it again.
I was already making 8 loaves at a time for just our family.  I didn't want to have to make bread again sooner because I was sharing it, so I decided to make a 12-loaf batch.  See that bucket next to me?  That's what I mixed it in.  At least, that's what I started to mix it in.  Then I had to do the rest by hand.

Good thing I have such skilled bread machines.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Lurkers Still Welcome

For my official policy on Blog Lurking, please see this post.  I just wanted to be clear for those unlookedfor lurkers who recently confessed themselves--you are very welcome here.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

This Year's Theme:

Can you Guess?
front row: Wendy, John, and Michael Darling, Peter Pan
back row: Nana, Captain Hook, Tinkerbell, and Tootles.
Sadly, Smee was at sea.  (OK, he's really in Louisiana, but he will be going off shore tomorrow.)

We were dressed up for our ward's annual Harvest Party and Trunk-r-Treat.  I think Jason's costume was the biggest hit of the night.  I think mine was probably the most startling--no one else had their face fully painted.
Although Tinkerbell and Captain Hook seem like an impossible couple, I think I could see Nana and Smee actually working out.  What do you think?

And I had to prove I had a tail because it make it into any of the other pictures:

Update:  Because I'm sure you all wanted the details of how the fabulous costumes were made--
Tootles was a hand-me-down bear-eared white baby warm suit that I colored brown two years ago for a Fozzie Bear costume for Rhys.
Tinkerbell is wearing wings I made in college, a gold-threaded black cardigan and a green broomstick skirt folded up into it's own waistband to make it short and floofy both from my closet and a thrift-store find sleeveless tunic shirt with the bottom cut jaggedy.  Also green tights borrowed from one of the sister missionaries.
Captain Hook has on a wig and hat from Value Village with Neoma's white feather boa piled on top.  The mustache and eyebrows  he made himself from black construction paper and stuck on with corn syrup.  The jacket was Neoma's missionary trench-coat and the cravat is a small frilly half-apron from my costume closet all piled in on itself.
Nana is wearing a suede coat from my closet inside out with faux-fur from the fabric boxes covering the hood.  The tail is the sleeve of an unwanted shirt sewed slightly narrower with more faux-fur on the bottom.  It was stuffed with scraps and old clothes and safety pinned in place (like the faux-fur)  The brown pants are from the maternity clothes box (I've got to get me some dark brown pants...).  Hair is in pigtails with the tips tucked back up inside and the cap is another of the small frilly aprons folded over itself.
Peter Pan is wearing an over-sized green shirt from the thrift store that was cut and sewed down to size with a jagged bottom and sleeves, green thrift store leggings also cut and sewed down to size.  The hat was triangles of felt from the craft store with a red feather yoinked from Captain Hook's hat (before the feather boa).
Wendy is wearing an XXL adult t-shirt from my closet with elastic threaded through the neck and sleeves and a ribbon from my hair notions around the waist.
John's shirt was fashioned from a brother-in-law's castoff white shirt with a toddler shirt laid on it for a pattern--cut down and sewed, but left super long.  The glasses (with lenses popped out) and umbrella were from the same thrift store as Peter Pan's green leggings.  The hat was from a neighbor cleaning out their kids old things.
And lastly, Michael is sporting pink footy PJ's from a consignment store with a bunny removed from the left breast and the flowery cuffs and collar tucked inside and sewn.  The feet were cut out so he could wear it with shoes on, and he kept pulling them high up his legs.  The backside was embellished with a line stitched around it and buttons salvaged from a baby shower invitation sewn at the corners to imitate a bum flap.  He is carrying his own bear that he is actually extremely attached to.

Altogether we spent under $40 to outfit all 8 of us.  $40 looks like so much when I type it, but it's only about $5 per  person.  That's really cheap, right?

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Dishpan Man

In the grand tradition of all Gould babies, Peter has discovered the dishwasher.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

To My Mystery Follower

Hi.  This is me risking being really embarrassed because I don't think I know you, but there's always the slight chance that I might be supposed to.  But I don't think I know you, and I was really excited by the idea that someone is following my blog that I don't even know.  How cool is that!  So, that being said, I actually did want to find out who you are, because as much as I welcome anonymous blog-stalkers, I like knowing people even more.  And I tried to send you a message, but couldn't figure out how to make that work.  (I even followed one rabbit hole down to becoming a follower on my own blog, but I still couldn't send you a message then, so you see how desperate I am.)  So, maybe you could comment and tell me, "Hey, don't you remember, I was in your ward that one time," or, "Hi, yeah, I've never met you but I am friends with so and so and saw your blog on their blog," or, "I'm that stranger and I randomly came across your blog as I was clicking 'next' up in the corner and was so impressed with your wit and humility that I have been hooked ever since."  Or don't, and just keep silently stalking me and drinking in my clever goodness and correct usage of apostrophes.  'Cause I'm sure that's why you're here.  :)

Kindness and Blessings

As I sat in church today, listening to my children sniff and snort and sneeze their way through Sacrament Meeting, I was regretting that I hadn't paid better attention to them sooner so that I might have had time to find someone to teach my primary class for me so I could take them home.  I didn't want to send them to their respective classes to infect all the other children, but I didn't have anyone else to take them home, or to teach my lesson. Besides that, I wasn't feeling too great myself.  I was silently despairing, when Rhysie told me he needed to go potty.  With a tenuously toilet trained toddler, you don't tell them to just hold it.  So I left Willow in our pew and took him to the restroom.  I tried to encourage him to take off his shoes so that he could get his pants off and sit backwards on the potty, which is the only way we have found to make sure that he gets it all in.  He insisted he wanted to leave his shoes and pants on (which we could never get him to do back when we were trying to get him to sit frontwards), and so sit facing forward.  Since he had been practicing aiming, I agreed and started talking him through holding it down to aim it in, but before I knew it, he was going, straight out, onto me.  I got him pointed down pretty quick, so I wasn't soaked, but I was definitely thoroughly sprayed.  I have a change of clothes for him, but his were dry.  I do not have a change of clothes for me.  I turned to the other mom that happened to be in the bathroom at the same time with her little boy and spilled my sob story on her in the form of a "what do you do when" rhetorical question.  I tried to be cool, but my eyes started dripping (might as well, my nose already was).  When she offered her husband to teach  my class for me, I finally made up my mind--we were going home.  I'm so grateful for compassionate and observant people.  I can do the compassion, but I'm generally not incredibly observant.  I'm glad other people are, and are kind.
And I will end with a cute, although unrelated, picture (note the ride-on car in bed with them):

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To My Medieval Compatriots

Do you recognize these?

St. John's Urchin!  Otherwise known as Sausage Hedgehogs.  I actually made them for dinner the other night.  The kids loved them (as did the grown ups).  I actually slivered the almonds by hand.  We only had whole ones, and I wanted them so bad.  It was worth it.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Sister's Son

Because I don't have a cute baby of my own to post pictures of right now.

Maybe if his mom was downstairs she would have taken it off after the pictures.  As it was, we left on for the whole meal.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Toilet Training in (More or) Less Than a Day

If you will recall this post, you will know the entirety of my fickle nature. I pursued the gimmick-free potty training path with Rhys, and guess what? It worked! He could fully hold it between times being taken to the potty, even if I didn't remember to take him with great frequency. I felt so successful! And then he had a period of regression. At that point, I just didn't want to deal with multiple accidents every day, especially not on the go, which was difficult anyway because he needed someone to hold his little man down for him, but when I leave him in the child care center, they are not allowed to help him. Yeah, that was interesting, and unsuccessful, and wet.

So he went back into diapers indefinitely, though I had some thoughts of trying to potty train again when Daddy got home, or maybe after all of the summer traveling.  And because I'd packed away all the cloth diapers and I was tired of laundry, and I'd had trouble there at the end of cloth diapering getting them stripped, we were even back in plain ol' disposables.  Talk about regression.  All my lovely, green progress, gone.

I have a friend at church who has 4 children.  I think she has some magic child-rearing skills because her 4 year old was reading scriptures in her primary Sunday school class and her 2 year old is not in diapers anymore.  And she said the same was true of all her children at the same ages.  I had secret jealousy.  In talking to her, she told me that she used the book Toilet Training in Less Than a Day.  She offered to lend it to me, and I figured that it couldn't hurt to at least read it, even though I had completely eschewed gimmicks.  It turns out, the method in this book is every single gimmick I have ever heard of rolled into one--dedicate a morning distraction free, focus only on your child, nothing else, teach a doll to go potty, give them lots to drink, give them rewards for success, make them practice 10 times when they have accidents--plus more I had never heard of.  The thing was, though I had tried and failed with each of those tricks, it started making sense as I read the book that the reason for the failure was that I had used each on its own.  It explained how they work together to actually teach your child how to toilet himself, not just throw him in and hope he swims, and then getting mad because you have to keep getting wet when you jump in to save him from drowning over and over and over (why doesn't he just swim?!).  So I was converted.  And I held on to the book and read it and planned to train him after the summer craziness was over.

In mid August, the day finally came.  My angel of a sister took my daughter and her kids out of the house so I could focus on just my little boy and we started with the special drinks and teaching a dolly (we didn't use one that wets, we just used a regular doll and poured some water behind it).  I don't know if it's because my son has such a great capacity to hold it, but he did not get enough practice in that single morning to actually figure out what he was supposed to do.  I kept him up all afternoon and put him to bed early.  We were both exhausted.  He went once or twice in the potty, but could not take himself.  He had, however, learned to pull up and down his own pants, carry the little pot and empty it without spilling, and get a wet wipe to clean his hands afterward (he can't reach the sink on his own).

The next day my sister again took all the kids and we returned to work with a little more success.  He sometimes went on his own.  I left it at that.  We had accidents, but sometimes he went.  After a few days of off-and-on, I decided he needed more practice, and not practice running to the potty when he had an accident--that didn't seem to be helping at all.  So I set aside another morning, but with everyone at home this time, and I gave him lots of drinks and watched him  so he would have lots of opportunities to practice.  Success!  He actually started taking himself to the bathroom without instruction.  He usually told me he needed to go, but he was noticing and choosing and taking care of it on his own.  So Exciting!

After a couple of weeks I decided that he needed to learn to go by himself in a big potty, and, using a tip from my wonderful mother-in-law, I taught him to take his pants all the way off and climb up to sit on the potty backwards.  With his hands on the back of the toilet, his body is in a position such that the urine stream actually goes in.  It has been wonderful.  The last several weeks, somehow his ability to notice and go  to the potty on his own has all but disappeared.  I'm not sure what happened, but if we don't tell him and insist, he won't go.  But he does hold it if I tell him to go regularly, and he can take himself and do the whole thing without me in the room.  This is huge, and I call it success.  We are, however, working on the staying dry and taking yourself thing, but I know it will come eventually.  He currently gets a cookie just before teeth brushing time if he still has on his big boy underwear from the morning (he has to put on training pants if he has an accident).  He likes it and looks forward to it, but it hasn't really modified his behavior (except that he doesn't complain as long when I ask him to go).

Official Book Review:  It took about a week from when I started to when I would say my son was fully potty trained, but I still think the method was a success.  Even though it wasn't as quick as promised, it still was a lot quicker than the year-and-a-half with my daughter.  I don't think this method is for all parents.  It's intense, and requires determination, effort, consistency, and faith.  (OK, that sounds like if you don't want to do it, you must not have those things so you are a horrible person.  No, you can have those things and just not have them for potty training, and still be a marvelous human being.)  Some of the things they describe or advocate in the book are pure fantasy--a 2 year old wiping himself after he goes #2 and then dumping it all in the toilet without you knowing?  SO not a good idea--and somethings are missing--they don't even mention hand washing, anywhere, ever--but overall the child psychology and pedagogy are sound and the method does produce success.  

I am very happy to say that I have two potty trained kiddos.  And no diapers.  That's weird.  I was planning to have at least one in diapers for the next 20 years.  Oh, well.  I'm not complaining (too loudly).

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Learning to Crawl

It's tough learning to crawl with so many big kids around. Or maybe so many big kids around while you're learning to crawl makes you tough.

Either way, he's getting it. (I like how his hind end overtook his fore end for a while there.) To see him really crawling, see this post on my sister's blog (it's her son) of a video that was taken a few days later.

Rhys' New Hobby

Apparently Rhys has taken up cross country skiing at bedtime.

How can I make this cuteness go to sleep?
(Don't worry. I did it.)

Meanwhile, Willow made sunshines on the magnadoodle.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Prayer for Priorities

What wouldst Thou have me do today?
What wouldst Thou have me know?
Who wouldst Thou have me serve today?
Where wouldst Thou have me go?
I am willing and wanting to do Thy will,
I am eager Thy children to bless,
But sometimes in the rush of my busy day,
Thy service gets lost in the mess.
Help me to focus and help me to hear.
Help me to open my heart.
Help me to attend to, all the day through,
What I asked to know from the start.
What wouldst Thou have me do today?
From my Chaos I beg this request:
What part is paramount for me right now?
What needs my thought and my story right now?
What in my life is ignorable now?
How can I serve the best?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

In My Own Back Yard

OK, it was really my neighbor's back yard, but the picture was taken from mine. It's closer than it seems because the camera on my iPod isn't very good at distances.

P.S. It's a bald eagle, by the way, and maybe if my sister is so enamored with the photos her husband took of it, she'll should post some on her blog.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Chicken for Dinner

Please read this post: One of these things is not like the others... on my sister's blog. Then you will know why Rhys just walked in the door from the back yard and said, "Please eat the new chickens?"
"No, we are going to keep them!"
"Nooooooooo!"*crumple on the ground in despair*

PS: we had Louie (formerly Lulu) for dinner last week, Tuesday, I think.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

When Has Sharing Gone Too Far?

I don't know how and I'm not sure when it started, but somehow Willow and Sam started the tradition that when quiet time starts, she goes and gets a stuffed animal from her room and brings it up to him where he has quiet time in the office. I finally interceded when she had to come ask me how many more she needed to be eight (she was carrying 3 stuffed animals). The best that I could piece it together, they had decided that every day she should bring him one more than the day before. There are two problems with this, OK, maybe 3--first, she is supposed to keep her toys in her own bedroom. Second, it had gotten to the point that they couldn't even do it by themselves. Third, which is sort of like the first, they didn't get put away afterward and so it was always 8 new toys--her entire bedroom was migrating upstairs.

I told her not to bring her stuffed animals to Sam during quiet time any more. She protested, but finally obeyed. I wanted to let her share, but it was getting ridiculous. Do any of you put limits on sharing? Today when she came upstairs to announce that she was bringing her stuffed Koala upstairs to Sam for quiet time, I let her, because it was only one toy and she could do it quickly all by her self. Does that make me an inconsistent parent? Maybe. Oh, well.

Monday, June 20, 2011

More (Concrete) Yogurt Insights

For previous home-made crock pot yogurt exploits, see Crockpot Yogurt--More than you ever wanted to know and An Addendum on Yogurt

For the record:

I have successfully cultured wonderful yogurt from both stringy-gloopy underheated yogurt and from over-cooked cheesy yogurt. So apparently temperatures of up to 150 degrees will not "kill" or ruin yogurt cultures, they just mess with the quality of that batch. Similarly, cooler-cultured stringy yogurt cultures are the same as any other and can produce good quality yogurt from new milk.

The secret to well-cultured yogurt: 120 degrees. I have actually produced consistent fantastic results from that. Once I have cooled the heated milk down to that temperature and mixed in the starter I put it in the warming oven (the regular oven set to the lowest "keep warm" tempurature of 145 degrees) and don't turn off the heat until it is back at 120. Then I (manually) cycle the oven on and off to maintain as close to 120 degrees as possible (this isn't too intensive if you are spending an afternoon at home--it's just a matter of opening the oven door and quickly checking the temp with a probe thermometer. If you had one of those leave-in-the-oven-stuck-into-the-meat thermometers that could give a continuous reading, it would be even easier. This has consistently produced yogurt firmly cultured into one mass with a little bit of whey floating around it. This yogurt looks like real store-bought yogurt in that when you scoop it, it leaves a well behind and does not stick to itself. I served some of this straight (without draining) to my kids for breakfast one morning and they loved it. I had some myself and found it a little thin tasting when it was not drained, but the weirdest part of it was that it was still warm. It tastes much better chilled.

This quality of yogurt also drains much better than poorly-cultured yogurt and naturally drains out just about 2 quarts of whey if left to sit in a cheesecloth-lined colander. What you are left with is beautiful, thick, white yogurt that scoops and is not sticky (after you put the drained yogurt into a bowl and stir it all vigorously to even out the drier and wetter parts). It is also awesome for making frozen yogurt.

Thick, soft yogurt cheese is best made by culturing the yogurt as usual and then leaving the oven on at the end until it gets to about 140 degrees. Once it has reached this temperature, the yogurt has started to break down and as you ladle it into the cheesecloth, it will seem loose. This is desireable as it allows more whey to drain out. I usually let it drain until it slows down enough to be draining almost nothing more, then I gather the ends of the cheesecloth together to make a sort of purse. This puts gentle pressure on the sides of the yogurt in addition to gravity and it begins draining more again. I suspend it by the gathered corners and put a bottle or bowl under it. I try to drain out 3 quarts of whey from this, but it sort of drains however much it wants.

To determine the nutrition content of your yogurt cheese (which may be different from mine as different amounts of whey will drain out, and the resulting cheese may vary unexpectedly in volume), use these formulas:
a=cups of whey drained out of the cheese, b=cups of yogurt cheese remaining
Carbohydrate grams per cup=(16*13-a*13)/b
Protein grams per cup=(16*9-a*2)/b

This is for one gallon of fat-free milk. I haven't ever used anything else.

If using a different kind of milk, substitute the grams of carbs in the milk regularly for the first 13 and the grams of protein for the 9. Then for the fat, where grams of fat per cup of milk=c, use 16*c/b (as far as I know, all of the fat stays behind in the cheese--none of it goes into the whey).

If using less milk to start with, substitute the cups of milk initially for the number 16 in all cases.

To be sure to negate the nutritional effects of the starter, just remember to remove as much yogurt as you added before you drain it. (you can even take out the starter after you culture it but before you over-heat it)

For a finer texture of yogurt cheese, when initially heating the milk, bring it all the way up to scalding (over 200 degrees, but not boiling). This makes the resulting yogurt not as firm, and so also makes yogurt cheese (if that's what you make) with a smoother, more creamy texture.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Boy, Oh Boy.

I was watching my boy play around (and occasionally behind) the TV stand where he has been forbidden to go because of all the wires and potential for things to fall. But he was so cute that I wanted to record it before I stopped him. I opened my blog and before I even got to the posting form he had tripped over the lamp cord and knocked it off the table. sigh.

But his cuteness that must be recorded was this: He has a plastic surfing baby Ronald McDonald in one hand and a wooden train in the other and he is making them talk to each other. I think the Ronald is the dad, but I'm not certain. This was their conversation, as near as I can remember:

. . . "No, you are brothers."
"Oh, I forgot. OK, Dad!"
"I need to do my work."
"I want to do work, too!"
"OK, it's time for work."
"Yes, we do work."
"Here is where we do our work!"

Remember, this is a train talking to a plastic McDonald's toy as they romp around the TV stand. I love my boy and his imagination.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Willow's First Talk

Last week in primary, Willow about jumped from her seat when they called her up as they were passing out assignments for the next week's sharing time responsibilities.  She was beaming from ear to ear as she sprang up to the front, had the note taped like a bracelet to her wrist (so it couldn't be missed by the parents on the way home) and proudly marched back to her seat.  I made myself wait until after primary to see what it was (Willow is a Sunbeam--the 3 turning 4 year old class--and I teach the CTR 4's--4 turning 5 year olds--and I think I had as hard a time as she did staying with my own class instead of running over to her to read all about it).  I was actually surprised to discover that, rather than being asked to give a prayer or a scripture--relatively short, limited word responsibilities--she had been asked to give a 2-3 minute talk on "The first principles and ordinances of the gospel make it possible for me to live with God again." This was great!  She loves to speak in front of people, and she has memorized the 4th article of faith during April of the 2 previous years (we were working on a different scripture this year), so it shouldn't be too hard for her to refresh it in her memory and discuss it a little further.

Willow takes after me in that public speaking is no problem.  In fact, I think we both seek the limelight a little too much.  But it is always exciting when the humble waiting pays off and we get to be the center of attention for a little while.  I may just be projecting my own feelings on my little girl here, but I'm pretty sure she craves it as much as I do, what with how she melts down when she realizes she forgot to get up and bear her testimony on fast Sunday.  

I was surprised how much of a struggle it actually was to get Willow to focus on preparing for her talk this week.  I remembered to start talking about it Sunday night, and then we had a lesson on the topic for Family night on Monday, and then I forgot about it until Saturday evening during dinner.  Trying to get her to recite the 4th Article of Faith, which enumerates the first principles and ordinances of the gospel, was like pulling her teeth.  I didn't know how to start the discussion about it with her if she wouldn't acknowledge what they were.  Finally, Saturday night after Rhys was in bed, I got her to sit down and talk about it with me.  We recited the Article of Faith a few times and then talked in one or two sentence explanations about how each thing is important in getting back to Heavenly Father.  I am a big believer in children's talks, and particularly that they should come from the child's understanding and abilities.  But it was really difficult given this topic that was so clunky to wrap a child's mind around.  I couldn't just ask a 4 year old, "so how do the first principles and ordinances help you get back to Heavenly Father?" and get any answer other than, "I don't know," or "Huh?"  So I was already in an undesirable place of telling her what she should think and then asking her what it was, trying to pretend that she was coming up with it herself.   But we persevered. 

I know that some children are so shy of being in front of a group or unpracticed with writing or pictorial representations that their personal best in a talk is for a parent to whisper in their ear what they should say and then repeat it aloud, but I knew Willow was capable of speaking unaided in front of a group.  My only concern was how to help her stay on topic during the talk.  So I drew pictures for her of the things she planned to say (to the best of my ability).  She started out with reciting the 4th Article of Faith--We believe that the first principles and ordinances of the Gospel are first, faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, second, repentance, third, baptism by immersion for the remission of sins, fourth, the laying on of hands for the gift of the Holy Ghost--then offered a sentence or two about how each of them is important in getting back to Heavenly Father: Jesus is the path back to him, so we need faith in him.  Repentance is how you get back on the path if you get off.  Baptism is becoming a member of the church, which is God's kingdom.  The Holy ghost helps us choose the right and become like Heavenly Father.  Then I told her she got to bear her testimony of those things.  This is something she is familiar with, so I was glad to encourage her to do it and not to write down anything in particular for her to say.  I did remind her that it is important to pray for and listen to the Holy Ghost while bearing her testimony and say what it prompts her to say, and stop when it is finished.  We also chose pictures to represent each of the 4 things she would discuss for her to hold up and show the primary as she talked about each one.  

When it came time for her talk (they almost forgot to ask her to come up.  That would have been a tragedy) she went up to the front with her pictures and her notes and I stood by her side for support and whisperings, if needed.  Her Uncle Jason was there because he is the Primary Pianist, her Aunt Neoma came from Relief Society meeting, and Grandma Gould (Jason's Mom) came all the way from Bothell especially to hear Willow give her first talk.  Willow  made it through all of the things on her note page with minor stumbling over the pre-chosen words and a few preemptive reminders (like to say "repentance" instead of "turning away from the bad people" when she looked at the picture of a u-turn arrow that was supposed to represent that principle in her notes).  

She got all the way to the testimony portion before she realized that we forgot to hold up the pictures we brought for everyone to see.  At that point it was the time I had decided I would encourage her to go "off script" and bear her brief testimony that what she said is true before she closed.  But with the pictures still needing to be displayed, she chose to go through each of the things again while holding up each picture.  Oh, I wish you could have been there, because I will never remember exactly what she said, and I am sure that me writing it down and you reading it will never be as profound an experience as hearing her pure, simple, and sincere testimony coming from her own mouth.  As she held each picture she repeated again the ideas that we had already discussed, the ideas that we had been talking about all week, but this time filtered through her own real understanding and in her own simple language rather than trying to remember and get right the exact words that I had told her before, including, "I know that I will get baptized someday," and "Jesus has the power to forgive us."  (I didn't tell her that one.)  

I am so grateful for my daughter.  I am so grateful for the love she feels for and from her Savior.  I know so much of her belief and understanding is wrapped up in what our home is filled with and has been from her birth.  It is so reliant on what we teach, not her own proactive discovery.  But that doesn't mean that her testimony isn't real.  She feels deeply, and because Christ is actually real and the things we are teaching her are true, her feelings and her understanding are real.  Sometimes she hears me pray that my children with gain a testimony of the gospel and come to love Jesus Christ and she tells me afterward, "Mommy, I do have a testimony!  It is growing bigger and bigger!"  We must be doing something right.  And above all, I know that God is blessing us.  

She is also a tremendously valuable example to her younger brother who loves to stand on things and bear his testimony (like his "Jesus Real"), and loves to show and express affection unashamedly.  A funny note--as my kids are exploring having different names (incdentally, Willow is now Rose Red, not Sally anymore), and calling me a different name (Aunt Maude), they often come up and want to practice my new name, so they call out to me, "Aunt Maude?" without anything really in mind to say to me once the have my attention.  Their default comment when I reply, "Yes?" is, "I love you."  (Of course, the more frequent the occurrence, the more emphatic they feel they need to make the comment, to prove its sincerity, so it has most frequently been, "I really love you so much.")

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Meet Sally, Aunt Maude, and Naddy

Yesterday Willow decided to change her name to Sally. When she began insisting that I call her her new name, I insisted that she call me a new name, too. Hence, I am now Aunt Maude. Rhys wanted to get in on the game and decided that his name is Naddy. Willow actually remembered her new name this morning and that she wanted to be called by it, so here we are again today. Perhaps I shall have further exploits of Sally, Aunt Maude, and Naddy to share later today.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A Mother's Dilemma

My little Rhysie is so adorable right now. His current adorableness is that he has started saying "yay-yeh" instead of "yeah." It's so cute I find myself asking him things just to get him to say it again. My problem is, I also love my Willow, but she is growing out of the "so cute I must eat you right now" phase. So recently every time I want to get on my blog and say something hilarious and adorable about my kids, it is almost always about Rhys.

I know Willow had her day, back when she was the only one I had to talk about, and even when Rhys was a baby and in spite of the specialness that that is, you can only say so much about it, but I still feel bad that my attention seems so lopsided.

At the core of the matter is that my little girl is not a baby any more. Her id is giving way to ego. And with this new self-awareness comes trying to be cute, or funny, or adorable, which just isn't as adorable as genuine un-self-awareness is. I have memories of myself at that stage. I know I thought I was cute and clever, but I look back at myself and wince at how annoying I must have been to my older siblings, on whom I forced most of my wit. Don't get me wrong--Willow is not currently annoying. Hopefully she doesn't ever get that far before social skills start to develop that can compensate (unlike her mother, who's showoff skills far outweighed her social skills well into Jr. High. Acutally, I think they probably still do. sigh).

But I think I mourn a little bit for the effortless cuteness of babyhood that inevitably succumbs to the self-awareness of childhood.

I think what I want to say, and to be on the record for the day when my blog becomes my personal history and Willow, while reading it, comes to the shocking era of her mother's life where she is overshadowed in anecdote by her younger brother, is:

Willow, you are growing up. You are maturing beautifully and just as you should be. This process is important, and often serious. That's why it doesn't lend itself so well to being laughed at as babyhood does. Know that not being mentioned as often is a compliment to how well you are developing the ability to pay attention to and interact comfortably with those around you. I don't share as many of your mistakes because you are coming into an age where you will learn what embarrassment is, and I don't want to be the source of that, if I can help it. And I won't laugh at you when it will hurt you.

Thinking over this post, I feel a little ridiculous that I am literally crying as I think about my daughter and how much she is not a baby anymore. She's only 4 years old. But, My Word! She's 4 years old! Thats practically a Kindergartener, and once they start school, their nearly grown up. Ohhh. My babies. Aren't babies. Won't be babies forever. Sigh. *sniff*

Saturday, May 21, 2011

A Long Post About Rhys. Please Comfort and Reassure Me.

Little boys who run around the house and yard incessantly pointing anything and everything they can find--sticks, necklaces, pillows, spoons, every toy, gold high-heeled shoes (from the dress-up box)--at other people and saying "pchew, pchew, pchew. I'm killing you," can still grow up to be normal, loving, righteous, well-adjusted non-violent non-criminals, right? I can't make him stop. It is his one consistent waking thought, "Shoot! Fight! Kill!!" Even when he is playing with toys (which he does adorably), he is almost invariably making them fight each other. It doesn't seem to matter what I say or how I react, it's just hardwired into his little brain. I'm glad we don't live in an era without guns, because then he would have to play that everything is a sword, and those require actual physical contact to kill, which means he would be hitting things all the time instead of simply pointing and making a sound.

I try to re-direct him (because I know just telling him to stop will have zero effect) by telling him to shoot chocolate love arrows, like we did with Sam and Willow, but, though he loves it when we pretend to catch and eat them, he will never admit that they are not real arrows for killing.

He seems to love us. He doesn't seem to be angry or really violent, he just has to "Kill!" all the time. I'm not quite sure what to do about this, or if I even need to try. I would really appreciate advice or wisdom from those of you who have been here before.

Some other notes on Rhys: He is continuing his dry streak. We had a day or two of two or three wet pants but mostly it was when we neglected to take him to the potty ever. And one accident always seemed to snowball into more. But if we took him and he went, we usually don't have to take him but every hour and a half or so. We even went to the Zoo yesterday and he was dry the whole time and went in the potty there. He was also dry during nap time. Yay!

This morning Rhys discovered a way to circumvent my blockading him downstairs by shutting the door. He can't open knobs yet, but this morning when I had shut the door to keep him from escaping upstairs while I was changing his clothes, he left the bathroom while I was finishing up and suddenly I hear Neoma from upstairs say, "What are you doing out there?" He had opened the sliding glass door and run around the the slider into the dining room upstairs and begged to be let in. He did it again later this morning, but let himself in upstairs because it was already unlocked. I needed him to be downstairs so I got him and brought him back down, but this time locked the sliding door. I set him down and shut the door to the upstairs and without hesitation he ran straight to the back door and tried to get out. When he found it locked he sat on the floor and wailed. I'll have to keep a better eye on him for now.

And a last funny: There is a big rock outside under a tree in the front yard. Rhys love to climb up and stand on this rock whenever we let him out of the car (which we park near it). As soon as he is there he starts calling out to everyone. And as you approach, he pauses he preaching to explain to you, "This is my 'Jesus Real.'" I assume he is referring to how Willow usually starts her testimony by saying, "I know that Jesus is real," because he then continues his dissertation, "I know Jesus real. Name of Jesus Christ, Amen." Then he climbs down and is on his way.

The Hand of the Lord in my Life: Kevin is gone. I'm a little sad, but mostly excited. How this is evidence of the Lord's hand: Kevin was able to be home for all of the vital things he needed to do to license to be foster parents and as soon as it was done, he had a job waiting for him. We got the application turned in, had all of the paperwork sent to us for him to sign, received our fingerprinting forms (for the background check), had our prints taken, took CPR and first aid classes, had TB tests done, and the day after our TB test was started, with our appointment already made to go back and have the TB spot interpreted the next day, he got a call to ask if he could come in the day after that. The Lord is arranging things and looking out for us. It is very important the Kevin be working right now not only because it has been a long time and our savings are being drained (which they are, but not so much that we are insolvent), but because we need to save up a little bit more for a down payment and have evidence of what his paychecks look like this year in order to successfully apply for pre-approval of a mortgage loan. After that, we can look for and buy a house. Hopefully sometime in the next two months. Whew!

Friday, May 13, 2011

An Addendum on Yogurt

For the beginning of my yogurt journey, see Crockpot Yogurt--More than you ever wanted to know.

I think I have discovered in my yogurt making exploits, that the warmer it is as it cultures, the firmer the product and the more easily the whey drains off. However, if it gets too warm, it kills the cultures and you cannot use it again. Also, if it gets cooked, too much whey tends to drain out and you are left with something more cheesy. This is not necessarily bad. You can do cool things with it like make German-style cheese cake (what you are left with when you super-drain it is similar to the German soft cheese quark. Be careful not to overcook the cake, it makes the edges have a really cheesy texture. It is best after it has completely cooled in the fridge). I've also substituted it for ricotta in lasagna.

Lately the yogurt I have been getting if it cultures at a cooler temperature is almost stringy, but with thick, gloopy, gelatinous strings. If you scoop a spoonful and try to pull it out, it is just as likely to get pulled right off the spoon back into the rest of it by the stringiness. It tastes fine, but the texture is strange and it tends not to drain as well, sometimes seeping right through the cheesecloth. Leaving it to culture longer once it is in this state does not help. I'm not sure if this development is a result of culturing at too high a temperature previously, or if the result would have been the same if I cooler-cultured it from the beginning. I definitely don't like it as well. This may be why some yogurt making sites recommend periodically refreshing your starter with new store-bought yogurt.

For more accurate information and additional insight on these issues, see More (Concrete) Yogurt Insights

I Must Shout My Excitement From the Top of Someplace Very High!

This is about the highest place I could think of. Yesterday Rhys was dry all day long!!!!! (Granted, he did have one poopy pants, but not wet.) And so far this morning he has been dry, too. I'm so excited! It's like magic.

And now that I have shared my excitement, I have to work on not being too hung up on it, because in all likelihood it is not permanent, at least, it is likely he will have periods of regression in the future, and I have to not set myself up for frustration. He is still in the process of learning. I have to remember that. But it is encouraging that he was dry all day long and we didn't even use a timer to remind us to take him potty. In fact, we forgot a few times for an extended period and he was still dry. He is doing so well, my little man. Not even 2 1/2!

And on Rhys these days--I can't even stand how stinkin' cute he is. I love to hear his little voice from the other room when he's playing by himself or talking to the other kids. He takes any random toy and will just play around by himself making it talk and jump off of things. He's all boy, forever making things into guns and shooting people (no, we don't have guns or gunbattles at our house. I don't know where he gets it. I haven't watched the A Team for a long time. . . ). Mostly he shoots "bad men" whom he seems to see everywhere. He is very vigilant in defense of our house. He love sticks, the bigger the better, but he will also carry around puny little twigs. I try to get him to leave them outside, but I still find them in the house. Oh, how I love that boy.

And I will conlcude with a conversation I had the other day with Willow, who was in the seat behind me in the car, next to Rhys:

Willow: Mom, do you think I am asleep? (this is actually not an uncommon question)
Me: No. Do you know why?
Willow: Why?
Me: Because I hear your voice talking to me, and you can't do that when you are asleep.
Willow: No, it is Rhys talking to you!
Me: Rhys is asking me if he is asleep?
Willow: No, he is asking you if I am asleep!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Success on Many Levels

Rhys is doing so well. We are having great success at training each other. His wet pants make it unpleasant enough that I remember to take him to the bathroom periodically (usually) and I have found the secret to make him go once he gets there. For some kids it is the promise of candy, or stickers, or a toy. For Rhys, it is Sesame Street.

We bring a laptop into the bathroom and let him watch a two minute clip of Sesame Street while he is sitting on the potty. It is like magic. I think the real secret is that he has to forget that he is on the potty and is supposed to do something.

The first time we started having any consistent success with Rhys was when we would refuse to let him get up if we were fairly certain that he had something to let out. We would physically hold him on the toilet and he would start to scream and wriggle and fight, and suddenly, relieve himself. Occasionally this led to very wet parents, but once we figured out the pattern and prepared for it, we usually got him off the toilet clean (us and him).

Then, some angel whispered in my ear to turn a show on the computer and, like magic, he stopped fighting and arguing. He still insists that he doesn't want to sit on the potty and that he doesn't care about Sesame Street right up until the point that we get his pants down and the computer sitting next to him, and then, quite often, he will go in the potty before the show even loads. And then he doesn't want to get off, so I pause the show and won't start it again until he is washing his hands. Then he can finish it.

The best part is that it really is helping, not just for when we can use the computer, but even in public places, if I take him to the bathroom, he knows what to do and he does it. Of course, when we are home he insists on having the computer before he will go, but it is progress. If we take him consistently, he will be dry all day long. We haven't actually achieved that yet, but we have gotten very close.

We are still working on #2, but I have been encouraged in this, too. Two days ago we were at a friend's house and I went to the bathroom to wash my hands. The door was shut so I knocked, and a little voice I recognized called out from within, "Come in!" It was Rhys, playing with the doors to the cupboard under the sink. I asked him what he was doing and he said, "I go poopoo." Yes, his pants were full, but just newly. I don't know whether he went before or after he went into the bathroom, but he was in the right place, all by himself.

Yesterday after lunch he stood up and said, "I need to go potty." When Daddy took him, he had a small smear of poo in his underwear, but sat right down on the potty and relieved himself of the rest. Yay! Yay! It didn't happen this morning. Instead there was an epic battle of wills to get him to go more after I caught him making a little bit in his pants and I am still waiting for the rest of the dirty pants to come later. But yay! It is real, good, self-directed progress, and I am glad for it.

The second level of success was funny and extremely joyful to me. Kevin and I were sitting at the table with all four kids--Sam and Benji as well as Rhys and Willow--and we had just put bibs on the two little ones. Sam and Willow insisted they needed bibs, too, I told them I thought they probably wouldn't spill. They said they would spill and started chanting, "We'll spill! We'll spill!"

I told them, "If you know that you will spill then you can be all done and get down from the table right now." They stopped chanting and Willow turned to Sam to say in awe, "Wow! She's a good Mom!"

I can't tell you how heart-melting and hilarious it is to have that level of good-mom-ness recognized by a four-year-old.

And I have a confession. All those "new me" improvements I rejoiced in a while back weren't so unalterably permanent and I wished they were. I still know I can do it, and it feels like that is the me I am trying to get back to, but I'm having a hard time making it work in everyday life. But I am starting to have success again--particularly with tracking what I am eating. I haven't been doing that, or able to get myself to do that for several months, but I have been with semi-consistency for about a week. I'm again working on consistent personal study--scriptures and journaling--everyday. So hopefully you will be hearing more from me soon.

And a mysterious way that the Lord works sometimes: This is an experience I had a long time ago, but was reminded of it today--how the Lord can work through seemingly entirely unrelated things to bring about a greater understanding and to show shadows of truth. Oh, back in elementary school, I think, when the X-men cartoon was on every afternoon, I watched an episode in which there was some virus killing people and no one survived it. If I remember correctly, there was also a time travel element, so when things were resolved in the end, they could go back and save people that we thought didn't make it. And the entire resolution was make possible by one character--Wolverine. I had always thought that Wolverine's mutant power had to do with that pointy hair and how he could shoot metal claws out of his knuckles. But, as my brother explained to me, that was only something that was done to him that his real power made his body capable to survive--his real power is that of near-instantaneous healing. So when he got infected with this virus, his body alone, of all the bodies in the world, was able to survive and produce antibodies to conquer it. From samples of his blood after he had defeated the infection doctors (probably some mutants, but I can't remember who) were able to create a cure that worked on everyone. Thus that he, the only one who could defeat the disease himself, not only survived, but made it possible for all mankind to survive, as well. I'm sure you see what I'm getting at. Somehow, this impossible fiction made the true and real Atonement of Jesus Christ seem a little more comprehensible to me. There was something fundamentally different about His body that made self-willed resurrection possible. And somehow, being half like us, He was able to use this occurrence to make possible a formerly impossible resurrection for all fully mortals. It doesn't really explain it any more than I already knew it at the time, but somehow it made more sense after watching Wolverine do it.

Does anyone else have a story like that to share--where something so entirely unworthy of being related made some gospel principle make more sense, or seem more comprehensible? I would love to hear them. Please share.

Friday, April 8, 2011

The Peace of God's Turbulence

Today I am thinking about Disneyland.  There are lots of rides there, many exciting, thrilling, unexpected experiences.  That's half the fun, I think, the unexpectedness.  I remember in particular the Indiana Jones ride.  The vehicle we were riding in would bump and swerve and buck without warning.  There were seemingly treacherous dangers everywhere, including dart guns and gigantic boulders headed straight for us.  That doesn't sound fun to hear it, but it was.  And the reason was, I knew that I was safe.  Those who laid out this course and designed the equipment knew what they were doing.  They would not allow real danger.  That is, unless you left the car.  Then there were no guarantees.  Those excitingly alarming pseudo-dangers could become very real, actually life-threatening situations if you left the safety of the appointed course. 
But, even though it fits my analogy (you didn't know this was an analogy, did you?), I digress.  Let us return to the safe trip, that one that is fun because it is unexpected.  That's where I am right now in my life. 
As some of you know, we have been planning a long road trip for this Spring, to visit all our relatives that we don't see often across the country, including brothers in Idaho, Colorado, Texas, and West Virginia.  We've been looking forward to this for more than a year and are very excited about taking the awesome-to-travel-in new minivan we got last December.
As many of you did not know, Kevin and I have been thinking of taking a long trip to Germany.  I wanted to give the whole family (and most selfishly, me) an in-depth cultural experience while solidifying my own German skills enough to be able to raise my kids bi-lingually.  We were hoping for a whole year, maybe Willow's kindergarten year (2012-2013).  This should have given us enough time to save up a substantial amount and for Kevin to become established enough in his profession that he could work in Europe.
We also have a long-term goal of building a castle on a large plot of land and eventually converting it to a bed and breakfast.  We thought timing would probably work out really well to look for that land to buy after we got back from Germany in about 2 years.  We should have been able to save up enough by living as we do with my sister for that long for a substantial down payment, if not to buy the property outright.
We have tried to stay close to the Lord in all of our planning, wanting above all else to be where He wants us.  Thus far lacking contrary direction, we have been pursuing our plans.  I have even had periodic personal assurances that Heavenly Father is mindful of and approves of my desires. 
And then this year a series of initially small promptings have led us to a course which does not seem to align with some of our already made plans.  The most notable of which is the feeling that we should pursue becoming licensed foster parents.  This seemed a little ridiculous in our circumstances--we have very little space, and no ultimate control over our surroundings (being in someone else's house).  But, full of faith, we have taken the first steps--we just finished the 25 hour training classes.  As some of you may also have heard, it is possible we may be needed in this capacity in a way we would be able to serve.  Nothing is definite yet, but the whole prospect makes a long road trip in the next couple of weeks extremely non-feasible.
We have also today felt directed to begin the process of looking into buying a house of our own.  This seems to shoot in the foot the idea of going to Germany.  How could we buy a house just to leave it for a year with uncertain employment opportunities?  And longer term even than that, we could do a much better job saving where we already are than anywhere else we could find.  What are we thinking? 
I'll tell you what:  WAAAAAHOOOOO!  Did you feel those blow darts whizzing around us?  Do you see that boulder headed straight for us?  Whoa!  Here we go sideways!  Hold on!  I have absolutely no idea what is actually coming next in my life.  There are obstacles I can't see a way around.  I feel no certainty whatsoever.  And I'm loving it.  Because I know that I am safe.  I am perfectly, absolutely certain that the Lord's hand is personally guiding my life's events right now, much more so than over the last few years where I have been able to comfortably imagine up my own ideal future and actually think that might be what is coming for me.  The architect of this path has no interest in my calamity.  In fact, he guarantee's my safety, as long as I stay in the car.  I know that whatever may appear insurmountable opposition will, in time, be reduced to nothing of consequence as I travel toward the Lord's appointed destination (which, I must note, may be very different from the destination I see for myself right now). 
And whatever of an awesome long-term life I can imagine for myself, I have complete confidence that what the Lord has imagined for us, that He is directing us toward, will be infinitely, unimaginably more exciting, satisfying, and lovely.  (Though it would still be sort of nice if it included a castle, too.)

Friday, March 11, 2011

One Ticket to CrazyLand, Please

I don't know who's side my mind is on or where all of the firm determination not to go down this path again went, but here I am, with a newly 2 year old, contemplating potty training.  I decided after the year and a half of terror with Willow not to go there anymore, and wait until much later with my next one before bringing it up.  yeah.  right.
Reasons why it is different this time:
  • I have been cloth diapering which means 2 things--1)supposedly Rhys should have a better understanding of what it means to be wet because cloth diapers don't keep a baby quite as dry as disposables.  2)with Willow, my main potty training motivation was to stop paying for diapers.  This is a moot point with cloth diapers, (though not having to wash them any more is a bonus.  But I'll just be having to wash underwear and every horizontal surface in the house for the next year instead.) 
  • Rhys actually has successfully made poopoo in the potty 2 times.  It has never been the full amount he had inside, and was shortly followed by a dirty diaper both times, but it was success!  And he has occasionally woken up from nap time with a dry diaper.  This is much more than I can say for Willow. 
  • I am done with gimmicks.  No more sippy cup of juice and potty in the living room all day long.  I just have to put underwear on him, watch, and take him to the potty.  And clean up messes, of course.
  • Yesterday, independent of potty trianing contemplation, I decided to give myself permission not to go to walking group any more, just because feeling like it is a necessity is stressing me out when I feel like I have too many other things to do.  So I just freed up all of my days from external commitments.  I can do this.
  • My mom is here.  She pottytrained 10 children (one was potty trained in 2 days by her father while he was visiting, so even she is in awe of her parent's potty training abilities), all before the age of 3.  With her support, I can do anything.  Which gives me 2 days.  Because she's leaving soon.
Reasons why nothing is different (why I am crazy):
  • I am still lazy.  The idea of watching my child every waking moment to try to "catch" him when he is about to relieve himself bores me to death.  I have never been able to see or "tell" when my child is about to go, or even when he his going.  This is going to be haphazard at best.  And very, very, VERY messy. 

Please, wish me luck.  Actually pray for me.  Hard.  That would be good.  Very, very good.