Sunday, November 30, 2008

In Praise of the Egg

Consider the humble egg.

One of the cheapest sources of protein available. Ideal nourishment for anyone on a budget.

The egg is, in essence, a self-contained, nutritious environment for a potential embryo. Therefore, it is no surprise that it is second only to mother’s milk as the ideal food for people. Full of amino acids, protein, and varying amounts of 13 different vitamins, eggs are also moderately lean, containing about 5 grams of fat apiece.

There are probably hundreds of ways to prepare an egg. Poached, boiled, shirred, fried, pickled, whipped, and swallowed quickly, in one gulp, raw. And, like any fine actor, it plays supporting roles as deftly as leading ones. The egg is essential to most baked goods and desserts, to mayonnaise, custard, souffle and quiche; it enriches, binds, gives levity and fluffs, softens, smoothes and fortifies.

Strong, yet fragile.
Genesis of life.



Just ask my twins.

Sunday morning after church, as I sat absorbed in my blogging, those egg-loving twins struck again. When will I learn?

I am not quite sure what they were trying to make...

But here is the primary perpetrator, doing her best not to be seen... (apologies to those who are not Python fans)

The Thanksgiving Puppy

On a cold Thanksgiving day, a puppy wandered, lost and
lonely, through the streets of town. As he turned a corner, there in front of him was a busy parking lot, bustling with cars and people doing last-minute shopping before Thanksgiving dinner. "Aha! Here is a place where I will find someone to love me!" the puppy thought. But not one person had time to stop for the poor, lost puppy. People walked right past him, ignored him, and chased him away. He had to dodge shopping carts, cars, and skateboards. Sometimes somebody would stop to pet the puppy or talk to him. But nobody wanted to take the puppy home.

Then a nice lady noticed him. "Maybe she will take me home!" the puppy hoped. But the lady left him outside as she walked into the store. Sadly, the puppy kept sniffing and searching the parking lot for someone to love him. When the nice lady returned to her car with her groceries, she saw some mean kids teasing the puppy. She walked over, chased the kids away, and said, "You poor puppy...have you been here all day? I don't want you to get hurt by a car. Do you want to come home with me?" The puppy wagged his tail happily and hopped into her car. Her children were so surprised and happy when she brought the puppy home, and they all lived happily ever after.

That's pretty much how it happened.

Except for the Big Mean Daddy who wouldn't let them keep the puppy. After two days they found a nice man (we hope) who took the puppy, and the children cried and cried. One of them even locked herself, sobbing, in the bathroom, and walks around clutching a framed picture of the puppy who lived with them for 48 hours.

Sheesh. So much for a good deed.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Moments to Remember

I asked Clare (7) to keep an eye on the twins for me while I went out to the garage. When I returned a few minutes later, this is what I found...

How sweet is that?

Although they've dragged their beanbag babies around sporadically for several months, and diapered them once or twice, the twins really don't play with their dolls much.
But tonight during "story time," Natalie (pink) put her baby on her lap, showed her the book, and used the baby doll's hand to point to things in the story. They also both kissed the doll's head when she "pointed" at something in the book! Then Natalie had me wrap the baby tightly in a blanket, and "fed" her an empty bottle. By then Noelle couldn't stand it, so I had to locate the matching baby doll and do the same routine. They both cuddled their swaddled dolls, and then flopped around to get comfy before falling to sleep themselves.

I wish somebody else could have witnessed it too. I will cherish this memory - I wished with all my heart I could have had a video camera handy, but once they spy the camera, it's all over but the shouting.

And finally, this was tonight's daily dose of twinsanity... I got caught up in the dining room, teaching Clare how to draw snowflakes. This is where I found Natalie when we were done. I didn't think she could get up from that little red chair onto the countertop.

No wonder she was so quiet. And her twin was quiet, too, because Natalie was throwing down goodies.

Why does this stuff only happen when Daddy is at work?

For Christmas I was going to find shirts that read "Which One Am I?" but I think I'm going to look instead for shirts that say "Silent" and "Deadly." Or maybe "Search" & "Destroy?" "Divide/Conquer?" They may not be cutesy, but the truth hurts, man. I have observed lately that Natalie seems to be the evil mastermind, while Noelle is her minion. Natalie doesn't communicate verbally as well as Noelle, but watch out! - those wheels are turning behind those droopy bangs!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving pictures

A rare group shot with every one of the cousins!
Standing: Kaitlyn, Megan, Scott, Brian
Seated: Conor, Clare, Noelle, Michael, Anna, Theresa, Bella, Milo, Adele, Sarah, Natalie

...and the men responsible for it all!

Vince, Michael, John, Andy

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

My Sons / Video: Brian's Obstacle Course Spectacular

My firstborn son,
now a high school sophomore


Our Twin Story

It probably wouldn't be a bad idea for me to write this down, before I forget everything... but please, don't think you have to read it all. It's just someone else's boring pregnancy and birth story.

Brief recap - We married in early July 1990, and by mid-July we were expecting our first child. Heck, we were just kids ourselves (fresh out of college, only 22!) and we were over the moon with excitement. We knew we wanted a large family, but the family joke is that we never exactly pinned down what "large" meant!

Our first four were born in 1991, 1993, 1996 and 1998. They weren't exactly "planned," but they were definitely welcome. We were just going with the flow. After Mister Four, I thought I'd had enough (no sniggering, please) and wanted to consider a tubal ligation. My husband asked if I'd consider Natural Family Planning instead, since sterilization and contraception are contrary to our faith. We learned and practiced NFP since that time, but since then God has opened my heart and enriched our lives with 4 more children that never would have existed if I'd been "fixed." Or rather, "broken," as my husband likes to correct.

We also started homeschooling around the same time we learned NFP (the same couple that taught us NFP also inspired us to homeschool). And although life kept getting crazier and crazier, somehow we made room in our hearts and our home for another (2001). And another (2003).

After six kids, homeschooling the older ones started to get more intense and time-consuming. I thought that our family should have been complete. Or more accurately, I just couldn't take any more and was ready to drive off a bridge. Hey, I never claimed to be a saint! And so the news of #7 didn't make my heart leap with delight. (picture mild catatonia instead) I moped around, cried a lot, thought "Why me, Lord? Can't you bless someone else for a change?"

But He wasn't finished with me yet. At 13 weeks, I felt that I might be leaking amniotic fluid, so the OB fit me in for an unscheduled ultrasound to measure my fluid. And it was then that she uttered those memorable words - "I think there might be more than one baby in there." I remember saying in a shaky voice "Well, do you think you could find out for sure??

She went to find the other OB in the practice to have her come in for a consult, to make sure it wasn't just ultrasound waves reflecting off bone. But she was gone an awfully long time. So I did what came naturally - grabbed the ultrasound wand and started moving it around my belly, trying to see what she saw. After many unsuccessful tries, I realized that I was looking in the wrong place. My tummy might have been poking out already, but my uterus was still way down in my pelvis, behind my pubic bone. So once I figured out where to look, I found them. Both of them. I felt like laughing, but it's hard to keep the ultrasound wand steady when your belly is bouncing up and down with laughter. I had pins and needles all over my body, and I just couldn't take my eyes off those amazing little blobs.

When the OBs returned (catching me red-handed) and confirmed the multiple pregnancy, I kept asking them for a blanket, asking if the air conditioning was turned up too high. One of them said "No,'re in shock." Remember, iIt was the middle of June.

I had never even entertained the idea of twins before that day. This is because I never thought there was the remotest possibility I'd ever have them, and I'm too pragmatic to waste time and energy on the impossible. There are no twins anywhere on our family trees, and back then I thought that's the only way you got them. So I drove home (in a trance of disbelief) with a copy of the ultrasound as proof, and faxed it to my husband. He called me back in a few minutes, hooting and giggling. Giggling! I also phoned my best GF right away, since I was the first person she called 4 years earlier when she learned that she was having twins.

It is improbable and amazing, but finding out there was more than one baby completely turned my attitude around. Instead of despairing, I was elated and so excited. I don't know why this was so, but having twins completely changed everything.

Being in my late 30s, the OBs were naturally overcautious and pessimistic about my chances. They had me psyched up for bedrest and prematurity. But the pregnancy unfolded without complications. They were monozygotic (identical) twins with separate placentas, which to me was the best of combinations. I got to have identical twins (how cool is that?) without the danger of TTTS. They grew well, were each as big as a single baby would have been, and we made it to 38 weeks. I even went shopping on Black Friday, and was Christmas Eve mall shopping two days before the birth (although I moved like my arthritic grandmother). My blood pressure started to climb toward the end, so they scheduled a delivery before my BP could cause complications.

I didn't even think to take any pictures until the third trimester. Here I am at 31, 35 and 38 weeks. In retrospect I can see my face getting heavier and heavier. I guess I was retaining more fluid than I thought. I was also as hot as a blast furnace, day and night, couldn't breathe lying down, and had world-class indigestion for the last trimester. I spent many nights sleeping sitting up in a recliner.

The twins kept changing positions, but toward the end Natalie turned head up and stayed there. The OB told me that if I tried for a vag delivery I had a 50% chance of needing a c-section for the second twin if she didn't turn. The prospect of emergency surgery immediately following labor and delivery was not appealing. I decided to go with the odds and just have the surgery.

They were going to induce me on Dec. 29, 2006, but a few hours after midnight on Christmas, I had a coughing fit which broke my water. Did I mention I had bronchitis? For the previous two weeks I coughed my guts out every time I tried to lie down. I was really becoming a miserable sot, hugely pregnant with twins, hadn't had a night's rest in how long.

There weren't any contractions yet, so we putzed around the house and tried to rest until daylight. We live 22 miles from the hospital. The L&D nurses knew we'd be in around 7:00, and they reserved an operating room for 9:00. I think having my belly shaved was the weirdest part of the preparations. Once I was on the table, the bronchitis started bothering me something terrible. I hacked away like crazy whenever I tried to lie down. Finally the anesthesiologist gave me an albuterol inhaler. After a few puffs, no more coughing.

The babies were extracted at 9:15 and 9:17 a.m. on December 26, 2006. Our original due date was January 11, 2007, and I was really hoping to hang on to have the New Year's Babies. Our newspaper gives lots of prizes for the Baby New Year. And I could have had double prizes!!! But noooOOOooo.... Noelle was closer to the exit, so she became The First Noelle. She weighed 6 lbs 12 oz. Natalie was 6 lbs 13 oz.

It was my first section, and I thought it was a piece of cake. I've had natural births, epidurals, painful births after ineffective epidurals, inductions, nubain, morphine...I've even choked down a small bottle of castor oil, straight, to try to get an overdue baby to start moving out. (Hint - it worked, but don't do it unless you're a fan of explosive diarrhea. Or at least mix it with juice.) Honestly, the c-section was one of the best birth experiences I've had. The first day was awful, coming off of the morphine, but I healed very well and I can't say it was that much worse than the others.

We stayed in the hospital 4 days (I faked constipation to score an extra day) and I let the nurses take the babies as much as possible so I could rest. I never did that with the other kids - heck, once I checked myself out 12 hours after delivering so I wouldn't have to be away from my 2yo a minute longer than necessary (you fool) - but I knew once I came home there wouldn't be a moment's peace.

The whole first year is a blur. I can't pinpoint a single memory. Thank God I have pictures. I wasn't very good at tandem breastfeeding and I felt too exposed while doing it, so I nursed them one at a time. Then Natalie decided at 4 months that she didn't like nursing and shunned me completely, taking bottles for the next 6 months. At 10 months, she changed her mind again, and they both continued nursing sporadically until their 2nd birthday.

I do remember feeling overly protective and a little sorry for Natalie. She had jaundice worse than Noelle, so in the early pictures it's easy to tell them apart. Natalie's the orange one. She also was a better sleeper, soothed herself from early on by sucking her fingers, and once she started taking bottles, demanded very little special attention from me. I felt like she was being neglected, because Noelle was (and still is) so terribly fussy and demanding, crying all the time. It was mixed blessing that Natalie quit nursing, because Noelle thought both "nursers" belonged to her anyway. We used to call Natalie the Good Baby and Noelle the Butt Baby, because she was such a pain in the butt. Noelle really got the majority of our attention in those days. So my heart still has a soft spot for my little Natalie, who kept herself happy and asked so little of us.

Not The End.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I. Hate. Snow.

I was up pretty late last night (think 2 a.m.), and was just hoping to get moving by nine o'clock so that the morning wouldn't be a total loss. My darling breadwinner worked the night shift, so he snuggled next to me around 6:30 a.m. for a good day's sleep while I finished my nightly snooze.

My wish was granted - I got up before nine o'clock. However, I was awakened by excited, shrieking kids thundering through the house, dashing from window to window. You see, we had our first snowfall today. Yay.

My kids have long known that I. Hate. Snow. Period. Sure, it's pretty to look at. And I must admit that the first flurries of the season make my heart dance. But that's only for about five minutes.

After that, all snow means to me is searching for the other glove, struggling with gloves and snow pants, tying boots, doors left open, wet carpets, extra laundry, frozen hands, ice-packed boot laces, fights over who hit whom in the face with an slush-ball, spilled cocoa, and every mug in the house dirty.

And then they want to do it again all over in a few hours.

I have recently been visiting blogs from moms in Alaska, and they sometimes have snow straight through from October until April. Although I secretly dream about living a simpler, more rugged life, I think the snow would kill me. The past few winters we've only had a handful of days when there was serious snow accumulation, but it's still been too much for me.

I don't know why I should feel this way. As a child, I remember snowy winters when I'd be outside for hours, and coming in with snow caked in cuffs and laces, soaked to the bone with bright red skin. I know I tracked snow into the kitchen, and I'm sure I left wet clothes laying around. I don't remember my family having a hissy fit, and I know I left the door open at least once. Maybe it was because I was an only child?

Either way, the snow tolerance gene was not passed on to me. The milestone to which I most look forward is not the first step, or the first word, or potty training. No, my favorite age is when they can put on their own d**n snowsuit and gloves, not leave icy puddles on the floor, and remember to put their wet stuff in the dryer.

AND turn it on.

A Lady Named Irena Sendler

There recently was the death of a 98-year-old lady named Irena Sendler.

During WWII, Irena, got permission to work in the Warsaw Ghetto, as a Plumbing/Sewer specialist.

She had an ulterior motive...

She KNEW what the Nazi's plans were for the Jews, (being German).

Irena smuggled infants out in the bottom of her tool box she carried, and she also carried in the back of her truck a Burlap sack, (for larger kids).

She also had a dog in the back that she trained to bark when the Nazi soldiers let her in and out of the ghetto.

The soldiers, of course, wanted nothing to do with the dog, and the barking covered the kids /infants noises.

During her time and course of doing this, she managed to smuggle out and save 2500 kids/infants.

She was caught, and the Nazi's broke both her legs and arms and beat her severely.

Irena kept a record of the names of all the kids she smuggled out and kept them in a glass jar, buried under a tree in her back yard.

After the war, she tried to locate any parents that may have survived it, and reunited the family.

Most, of course, had been gassed.

Those kids she helped were placed into foster family homes or adopted.

Last year Irena was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize....


But, Al Gore won for doing a slide show on Global Warming.

Kinda warms your heart, doesn't it.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Great 2008 Tamale Pie Fiasco

Let me preface this by saying there is no blame to be assigned was just an unfortunate series of events fueled by my inexperience.

Tonight for dinner, our family had Tamale Pie, a Mexican casserole similar to chili, with a cornbread crust. Making the filling wasn't too complicated, although I haven't seen my kitchen this messy in quite some time. It didn't help that I didn't allot myself enough time to make this dish, so I was working under pressure, making a double batch, and using two separate pans because I have a child with an aversion to corn.

As Andy always says, "Ain't nothin' easy, ain't nothin' simple."

But enough about the filling. Let me get to the crust. I have to point out that I usually only get close to cornbread while eating at The Cracker Barrel, and I've only ever made it at home using a mix. My only experience with oatmeal or cream of wheat also comes from the microwave or instant varieties. So when the recipe said to bring 4 cups of water to a boil, add salt, and whisk in 1.5 cups cornmeal, whisking vigorously to avoid clumps.....well, I had no idea what to expect. I just doubled the batch and blithely proceeded to whisk.

I CERTAINLY didn't expect that a few minutes into the vigorous whisking, the entire pot would become a seething, viscous cauldron of bubbling lava. (Did I forget to mention that I recently acquired a smooth ceramic-top stove, and have not yet mastered it?) So I had 4 burners going full steam, the heat was up too high, and the cornmeal was merrily bubbling, shooting little cornmeal comets all over the place. Before I could even call Andy for help (who, by the way, was trying to nap on the couch before night shift tonight), a steaming blob of cornmeal shot out and hit me in the eye. Thanks be to God above that I happened to blink at that second, because I certainly didn't see it coming.

It hit me in the crease of my there I am, shouting for my drowsy husband to come help, because I can't even see to turn off the burner, and the lava is still erupting wildly from the pot. Oh, did I mention that there were also 5 kids present in the kitchen and living room?? He scuds in and covers the pot, turns down the heat and keeps stirring, whilst I determine if I've lost sight in that eye or not.

Well, okay, it wasn't THAT serious, but it is blistered, and just as painful now as when it happened.

The next time I make this dish, I will be ready for the cornbread. Or I might just chicken out and use two packages of cornbread mix. The kids were put off by the mushy texture of the cornbread, but that was my fault.
To remedy this, I'll make the bottom crust thinner and/or give it more time to bake.

As the Amish say..... "Too soon old, too late schmardt."

I don't know if there's a moral to this story or not. If you can think of one, please let me know.

And voila' - the finished product, which was quite yummy if I do say so myself...

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Video: My Kids Are Crazy

We have lived here for almost 5 months. You'd think the novelty would have worn off a little bit by now.

But no, they still do it.

Every day.

Several times.

Video: Winter Outerwear Fashion Show

Noelle (in purple) and Natalie (in pink) trying to show Daddy their new coats and boots through the telephone...

Friday, November 14, 2008

Video: Magical Moments

I know this video isn't the best quality, but it was such a sweet moment that I wanted to capture it anyway. Natalie is in pink...they are 22 1/2 months old.

I tried to bring the camera around without attracting notice, but when I moved over to avoid the glare from the window, Natalie spotted me. I tried to fake her out by pretending to look away, but it was all over but the shouting from then on. You can see when she catches sight of me, and then she can't look away. Finally I give up, because I knew she'd just get goofier and goofier.

Speaking of magical moments, this was taken yesterday... See? It DOES happen occasionally! Noelle is in the foreground.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Tire Swing, Autumn Leaves

Natalie & Noelle





Sarah and Natalie, after Natalie was stirring up the ash can

Can't you just see this photo in a Christian magazine ad, with this caption:

Will you please sponsor this child?
For only fifteen cents a day, you can make a difference in Natalie's life...

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Autumn Moments

A craft project that went awry...

These were supposed to be orange jack-o-lantern shirts, but the box of dye that was labeled "Sunshine Orange" ended up more sunshine than orange. Oh well, at least now they aren't limited to wearing the shirts only once a year.

Brian, Conor, Clare & Theresa
in authentic Lithuanian costume,
posing with Bishop Kevin Rhodes
of the Diocese of Harrisburg.

Presenting our last-minute, "what do we have that fits?"
2008 Halloween costume creations:

Clare (queen) and Noelle (space cadet)

Theresa (unicorn) and Natalie (clown)

Natalie had to quit after about 5 houses, because this is all she wanted to do every time somebody put candy in her bag:

Sarah as an accident victim, and Dad as John Klemick.

It's time to break out the winter hats, gloves, etc.
Noelle was kind enough to model for us.

Gee, if I were looking for twins, where would I look first?

Here is Noelle, playing puppy fetch with a baby doll. Sarah babysat for a few hours, and this is one of the fun things they did together.

And speaking of Sarah, here's my two biggest babies:

Clare has been doing online reading lessons at Headsprout since March. It cost about a hundred bucks to enroll her, but I justified the expense by admitting that with the twins now toddlers, I just couldn't find the time to give everybody all the time they needed with me every day. Sending them all to school was an option, of course, but I'm not ready to give up on the homeschooling dream yet, and I know this phase with the twins will not last forever. I just have to outlast them....

, she's been plodding along through the lessons and has completed 65 out of 80 total. And last week, something miraculous happened. . . she discovered that she can actually read things that aren't part of the Headsprout program. Literally overnight she has turned into a raving fanatical bookworm. She has, for the most part, eschewed television and playing and even sleeping. She reads inside, outside, upstairs, downstairs, bright light, low light... I swear, she's going to need glasses by the end of the month.

Overnight, her world paradigm has shifted and so much has opened up to her.
I always feel so privileged to witness an everyday miracle like this.

Sarah, 17

Monday, November 10, 2008

Morning Prayer

Here's another prayer that has captured me with its simplicity...

Ready to go
Ready to stay
Ready my place to fill
Ready for service
Humble or great
Ready to do Your will

I made it up with a colorful border
and framed it for certain select, privileged kids.