Category Archives: family life

Three Weeks Down — 33 to Go


Or, Sleep-Teaching — I Recommend It.

So, we’ve completed another week of homeschooling here at Siouxsie’s house. Things were not QUITE as smooth this week. People had questions about why they have to learn grammar if they are going to be professional skateboarders. “To raise the perception of the intellectual level of the sport” growled Daddy in response. People cried when they had to figure out how many pounds and ounces the zucchini in the picture weighed. They cried even harder when I suggested they figure out the difference in their birth weight (11 lb 7 oz) and their little brother’s birth weight (8 lb 12 oz), even when I made a mistake and said “their” birth weight was 11 lb 12 oz). We had people telling me they can’t do the program I selected for their language class this year. We had people making humorous videos of homeschooling with lots of photos of their own face making bored looks and emitting huge sighs. And we had small people unloading every shelf/box/container they could get their little two-year-old hands on. And then there were the people who felt very poorly treated for having a long day of school in spite of the fact that there are days when we do almost no school — they just didn’t see that it isn’t possible to have an exact 5-hour day every day. And they didn’t like that.

Ah, but we read some great stuff and really did make some progress. And my students made some awesome connections — one of them listened to me read about being optimistic and later commented during a read-aloud that a particular character was very optimistic. I love stuff like that. I’m reminded of how much I like the curriculum I am using this week. I’m reminded of how much I love teaching my own children and what a privilege it is to do this. And how great are kids who will continue on with their work when their tired mother just HAS to have a nap right now? Pretty great, I’d say.

Ever onward, always improving. Looking forward to next week.

Scribbling about Scrabble


There’s Scrabble you play with your emerging child speller where you cheer the word “duk” because she is sounding out words and trying to spell them. No score is kept in this game and most rules are either bent or completely disregarded.

There are the Scrabble games you play online with friends, or sometimes with people who have nothing better to do, evidently, than play Scrabble online, as evidenced by their used of the word “vquex” to score 114 points on a triple word play.

There are the Scrabble games that someone somewhere must play where you use a board, tiles, and the actual rules. I don’t know anyone who does that, though.

And then . . . . there is Northwoods Scrabble. The board pictured here is an actual game I recently played (I promise, Iris) with two of my children. In Northwoods Scrabble, the idea is to create a word using the tiles on your rack, giving the definition for it after you put the word on the board. While this may suffer from a bit of ‘you had to be there’ syndrome, here are a few of our definitions:

eieio — Mr. McDonald’s first name.

boqapowa — bonfire lit by Norwegians making sandwiches for a trip to Germany.

utanlui — animal which a cross between an Utan and a Lui. Found only in Pakistan.

eicoolie (i-chew-lee) — trout disease which turns scales yellow.

and finally

vepzuneri — a Swedish boat constructed from dried utanlui skins and colored with eicoolie-infected trout oil.

Kids — All That Energy and So Little Time


A few years back, dearest Val accidentally removed the tile wall from the shower. Totally not her fault. But, it required a major overhaul of the bathroom. At the time, one of the greatest ideas I had was to install a laundry chute, making the process of getting the clothes to the washing machine easier than you can imagine.

One of the things that I’ve noticed over the years is that my kids, from time to time, find the laundry chute entirely too difficult to use. Granted, you DO have to raise a door in order to place the clothes in the chute, and if you have a LOT of clothes, you might have to stuff them down with your foot.

I always love it when I go into the bathroom, just minding my own business, singing a little ditty, and go to get a washcloth out of the cabinet. And what do I spy? Dirty clothes sitting ON TOP of the laundry chute door. Did he/she not notice the door was closed? Was he/she too intent on getting back to the computer or tv? Does he/she feel it is not his/her job to lift the door and that should really be left to the parents who have nothing to do but clean up globs of diaper droppings?

The funny part is that I almost always know who did it because he or she was probably just asked to pick up the clothes in the family room, or do a sock search-and-rescue. I especially love it when the dirty socks are FLUNG into the cabinet, mingling their icky odors with my face washcloths.

Just another sweet family memory that we will no doubt laugh about when these children grow up and start bringing home fiancé(e)s and spouses and we sit around the table telling funny stories about the kids. Can’t wait!

Welcome to My Kitchen


In the evenings, I usually retire to my bedroom to escape from the sound of the television in the family room. I snuggle up in bed with a great book and my bottle of water and read until Kepler comes in to go to sleep, at which time I go to sleep as well. Am I a party animal or what? (Note that my accompanying photo is also a public service announcement. Am I am civic-minded gal or what?)

Well, last night, my lovely diapered son had one of THOSE diapers and the rest of my lovely family rose to the occasion, bathing him, changing the diaper, fumigating the rooms, etc. which I deeply appreciate. Truly and deeply. They are all great with taking care of Kepler.

This morning, though, as I walked through the kitchen, I noticed they had, uh, forgotten something. How to say this. There was a largish, hardened clump of something. Something that by the looks of it had escaped from that bad diaper last night. (Sorry to all you childless people for whom this is probably incomprehensible).

Don’t worry. It’s all cleaned up and disinfected now. And while we were at it, we pulled the refrigerator out from the wall. I think, maybe from the looks of what we found under there, it may have needed to be done a little sooner. But it’s done now and everything is sparkly and clean and we really enjoyed those raisins. (not really!)

Which reminds me, how is it so difficult for the eaters in this house to get the grapes they snitch from the fridge into their mouth? And the chocolate chips from the freezer into their mouth? Talk about be sure your sins will find you out. Not that either thing is a sin, cause neither is, but I always chuckle when I see the chocolate chips on the floor since I know they (kids, not chocolate chips) all try to be so sly. The darn grapes, though, roll under the fridge, which, as we have established, needs to be moved a little more often. But the grapes do make some LOVELY raisins . . .

Just to finish up here — under the fridge we found the following items: 5 different types of toys, a plethora of pencils, a myriad of markers, a 1/4 cup of chocolate chips, very and sundry bits and pieces of food, and, drumroll please, an envelope from last Christmas.

But let’s focus on the bright side, shall we?

Daddy Gets to Help Fix the Lawnmower




When we told Greg’s parents we had bought this house with its 3/4 acre yard, Greg’s dad’s only comment was a dry, “You’re gonna spend all your time doing yardwork.” Ha! Did we care? Not even a whit.

Fast forward a few years. Cutting the grass with a pushmower takes hours and hours . . . and hours. At that point, between soccer games, work, and cutting the darn grass, Greg’s booked solid all the time. Somewhere in there, we had our fifth child and bought a BIG ‘OL funky lawnmower which would take less time but had the unfortunate side effect of being SO big that no one besides Greg in our family even had the wingspan to reach the handles of the thing. So, no longer could I “help” out by cutting the front. Actually, it was a nice handy excuse to no longer worry about how tall the grass was getting and whether I should, as my friend Stephanie says, “do a little less dui-ing and a little more yardwork.” (As an aside, I must mention that it would be completely impossible for me to do any less dui-ing than I already do. I’m sure you can imagine.)

The BIG OL’ funky lawnmower was purchased from a nice neighbor a couple of houses down from us and has served us well. But as you can see, we had to consult our resident repairman recently due to a mower problem.

“Dad, I think you are going to need to get a new belt here. And it should be good as new. But my opinion is that you are just cutting off your pull start to spite your spark plug by not getting a mower that my big brothers and sisters can use.”

Lo and behold, what should follow Greg home this week but a brand-new (Consumer Reports Best Buy!) push mower.

So, not only did he take the repairman’s advice about the pushmower, he also picked up a new belt for the BOFL, and now we can all mow like the happy family we are.

I think I am still going to pretend like the lawnmowers are either too tall, too wide, or entirely too heavy for me and keep on blogging.

An Essential Part of Summer



The Lemonade Stand.

Is there anything as fun? We have such generous neighbors, and the kids are always very excited when they receive a nice tip. Usually, just the two boys sell lemonade, but the girls (my daughter and niece) had just made cookies, so they decided to pool their resources.

These resourceful children have sold more than just lemonade and cookies. In fact, on the way back from the grocery store run to buy the lemonade and cups, the boys were reminiscing about the time they sold “collections.” These were such treasures as a bucket of rocks (which someone actually bought), a group of leaves, several acorns — anything they could find in the backyard. I think the boys were about 6 or 7 when they had their “collections” sale.

These two boys have been friends since we moved in here, 9 years ago, when both of them were almost 4 years old. Such sweet memories.

A Milestone for my Lovely Daughter




After a heartbreaking morning on Monday, when after counting down for 120 days, Valerie found out that what WE thought was 15 1/2 years old really was not, according to the state, we decided to give it another shot and see if she had reached the magic milestone yet. This time, the computer agreed that she is indeed 15 1/2 and was eligible for her temporary learner’s permit. We went to the driver’s license bureau which is a mile away, and we got the permit packet, but had to go to ANOTHER location for the test, which she passed. The questions she missed were related to penalties for driving under the influence of alcohol.

As I waited in the waiting room, the girl next to me told me she liked my toenails! Wow! My pedicure has drawn the attention of a lot of people over the past few weeks!

After Val got her official documents, I drove her to a local Catholic church that has a HUGE parking lot and she drove around for awhile. Today she drove for another 20 minutes or so through quiet residential streets, but she is quite content for me to drive on roads that require any kind of speed. I can already see she is getting more and more confident and it’s quite the milestone to have one of my children driving!

Watch out, world!

Highlights of the Game

My family and I spent the afternoon at the Great American Ballpark watching the Cincinnati Reds play baseball. Today was Disability Awareness Day, sponsored by Mass Mutual, and we were given tickets by our financial planners. In addition to the special day, our wonderful pediatrician was given an award by Exceptional Parenting magazine and we got to see him out on the field receiving the award. He is such a special doctor, taking awesome care of all the kids, but especially Kepler, because he has a son with Down syndrome and many patients with DS, so he is just a great doctor for us.

Although the Reds lost, we all had a great time, with the possible exception of the couple in front of us who endured not a few bumps as we went in and out the aisles for various and sundry things. Sorry guys. I did ask at one point if they have children, and they said yes. I figured if they didn’t have children, all the jostling might have really been getting on their nerves, but all was well.

Here are a few photos from the trip. You’ll see that I managed to get Greg’s shoulder in one photo at least.



My wishes for Jessica and Caleb


My dear cousin’s eldest daughter is getting married Saturday. I had plans to attend the wedding, but as gas prices have risen, our plans for travel this summer have changed. Plus, I didn’t really think it would work well for me to drive myself and any number of my kids 900 miles to the wedding.

Jessica is their eldest, 23 I think. She has two younger sisters and a younger brother. All the kids are just wonderful, as are their parents. I haven’t gotten to meet Caleb yet, but I have no doubt he is a great guy.

As I think of them getting married, I would like to tell them:

Dear Jessica and Caleb,
My thoughts and prayers are with you as you get married today. May you have a wonderful, special and memorable wedding day. I hope you love being married as much as we do. After 23 years, I think the things that make the biggest difference are these: not saying unkind things when angry; working through disagreements before going to sleep if at ALL possible; remembering every single day that your spouse is a great blessing to you; touching each other regularly; learning what it means to be unselfish; studying and practicing I Corinthians 13 about bearing all things, believing all things, enduring all things, hoping all things. Laughing a lot together. Reciting lines from favorite movies that you enjoy. Reading to each other. Always being open to learning new things, about each other, and about yourself. Allowing the Light of Jesus Christ to come into any dark places and light them up. Knowing that everyone brings baggage into a marriage and committing to doing what it takes to get rid of the baggage. Reading good books on marriage (As For Me and My House by Walter Wangerin, Two-Part Invention by Madeleine L’Engle, and my most recent discovery — The New Rules of Marriage by Terry Real). Buy and listen to Steven Curtis Chapman’s CD All About Love. At least read the lyrics, even if it’s not your type of music. I think he has done a great job capturing what it means to love and so many of the things we face as work on our marriages. Keep your marriage first when you have children. Always treat your spouse with respect. We love you!