Monday, October 26, 2009

Memory Lane Monday

I love this picture. This is Brian, 6 years old, nearly toothless, taken just after his first-ever day of football practice. He was dirty, and tired, and had never been happier in his life.

August 2003

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Twin Hijinks

Toilet training must be exhausting. The twins have napped every day this week, even though they stopped taking naps at the beginning of the summer.

Day 5 was another success (both girls stopped withholding!!), except that by now, they've started to go more frequently in hopes of receiving more frequent potty treats. I'm going to have to switch to stickers!

On another note, their bedroom came equipped with built in dressers and shelves which, aside from being handy space-savers, also lend themselves well to other purposes...
The difference between Natalie and Noelle is apparent: Noelle is much more timid and cautious, while Natalie exuberantly plunges into things headfirst. Noelle is shy around people and hides behind my legs, but Natalie is talkative. Natalie always has a twinkle, whereas Noelle usually looks slightly cross.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Free Homeschooling Resources

I just found two free homeschooling resources that I'm really excited to share.

The first is called Happy Hearts Homeschooling Library, self-described as "A source of free online vintage homeschool books and curricula." These are available at any time.

Next is The Homeschool Freebie of the Day, "Every weekday, Monday through Friday, we’ll post a new homeschooling “freebie” to this site. What kind of “freebies”? Stuff like: Unit Studies… Ebooks… Audio Programs… Games… Samples… Lesson Plans… classic books… and other quality resources!" These are only available for a short window, about 24 hours each, so check back often! Or subscribe to their newsletter, which will give you a sneak peek at the upcoming week's freebies.

My thanks to these two dedicated webmasters for gathering and sharing this information!

Michele <3

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

A Long, Rambling Day in the Life

Caught in the act - working with Clare on math, with a twin in attendance and the ubiquitous cup of coffee in front of me

Today has been pretty ordinary overall. The babies woke me up at nine o'clock a.m. I was a big slug very reluctant to leave my warm covers, since my bedroom was quite chilly and I was up until almost three a.m. blogging and watching the Orionid meteor shower (I saw 4, but only one good one).

However, we are currently in TWIN POTTY TRAINING, DAY 3, so I knew I only had a limited time after they woke up before they had to hit the head before any accidents occurred. So I dragged us all to the bathroom and did a status check. Natalie's nighttime diaper was bone dry, and she tinkled on the toilet within seconds of climbing up. WIN! Noelle's diaper was somewhat warm and squishy, meaning she'd already voided, but it was pretty recent and not very much. Oh well. She tried on the toilet anyway, without any success.

I rattled everybody else's cages on the way downstairs and started a pot of coffee. The downstairs was a moderate mess, mostly unfolded laundry and a sink of dirty dishes. I put in a My Little Pony movie that the twins had never seen and took care of the housework quickly. Then I dashed upstairs for a quick - and very necessary - shower.

We had scrambled egg & cheese on tortillas for breakfast, then Clare took a shower and the twins received a bath. They usually get a bath in the evening, but I find that I'm so worn out at the end of most days that I don't have the energy to fight with them over the hair-washing and drying (the screaming is usually considerable). It worked out much better in the daytime; so much so that I think I'll be doing it this way more often.

After breakfast, I sat the kids down in the living room and read their history aloud, had a discussion about how Latin morphed into the Romance languages, which led into a discussion of how language is fluid and still changing today (consider all the new words in our language introduced by the computer age), which led to a discussion of how computers have changed over the last 30 years, leading to the tiny pen-shaped projection computers, still apparently in the conceptual stage. Then we listened to three chapters from the life of Saint Padre Pio. Then I listed the boys' lessons for the rest of the school day, and sent them off to complete everything.

It usually goes like this for Brian and Conor: a few math problems, then play for 20 minutes with the twins, because they are too adorable to resist. Then some screaming at Clare or Theresa for trying to sneak into their room. Mom comes up and yells, or lectures about being charitable or tolerant. Then maybe a page of cursive practice, followed by sneaking away to the rec room (when my back is turned) for some Game Cube. Then they either get busted for disappearing and not finishing their work, or they decide they're hungry and come downstairs in a thundering stampede in search of food. Or they need me to help them but I get a phone call, and while I'm busy they disappear outside to hide their weapon caches or pretend to be snipers (yeah, Brian, I'm talking about YOU). Then they'll read the next science concept in their book, but suddenly remember they have to get their football stuff ready THAT. VERY. MINUTE. It can be exhausting for me.

Clare and Theresa also have schoolwork they can do independently, but they need my help for a lot of it. So when I'm busy with the boys, they usually play on their own or with the twins, or mope around, whining about how they have nothing to do and I never do school with them.

In the meantime, the twins are either playing happily, or stealthily searching for contraband gum, or drawing on walls, or begging to watch Blue's Clues, or hopping around grabbing their privates with worried expressions on their faces, which causes me to drop everything and hustle them to the bathroom.

So far today we haven't had one puddle on the floor - Natalie tinkled on the toilet at least four times, and Noelle twice. That seems fairly consistent; historically, Natalie always had the monstrously-soaked diapers hanging between her knees, but Noelle just doesn't seem to go as much. I bought mini packs of M&Ms as potty treats, so after every tinkle they get a coveted treat. The older kids are even coming to me now and then and saying, "Mommy, I went on the potty! Do I get a treat???" Yeah, nice try.

The afternoon went fairly quickly - the girls got into a set of blocks that are only supposed to be used for math lessons. I prepared a quick dinner of ground beef, diced potatoes and taco seasoning, served in warmed flour tortillas. (Again with the tortillas! We're not even remotely Mexican. We just like tortillas) It's a fairly nice day, albeit cool, so they ran around outside for a while before the boys left for football and it got too dark.

The rest of my day will probably be spent tidying up, and then the bedtime festivities will commence. Then if I'm not too tired, I might watch a program on the computer or read a bit before I go to sleep. That's one of the drawbacks of homeschooling - while most other kids are gone from the house all day, mine are around to make messes. And while some of them are making messes, I'm too busy doing school with others to stop and clean it up. So the end of our school day is when I have to deal with everything that I let slide earlier. Sigh. This is not to say that my kids don't do anything (although my husband would disagree with me here). It's just that the little ones make most of the mess, and nobody thinks it's "fair" to continually clean up other people's messes. Myself included. I do assign them tasks, but most of the time sometimes it's just easier to do it myself.

Okay, there was an original purpose to the post, but it took on a life of its own and spun out of control. Here's what I originally intended to say:

At some point in mid-afternoon, I realized that Natalie was nowhere to be found. That can be a bad thing, because she is a consummate wall-drawer, and also likes to use scissors. NOT a good thing. Noelle found her, asleep in their bedroom. Apparently, Natalie decided she needed a nap, and tucked herself in ( one of my favorite things about her is that she acknowledges her need for SLEEP! She never fights me at bedtime).

Okay, back to the story - So Brian asks Noelle why Natalie is in bed, and Noelle answers, completely spontaneously, "I killed Nanny with this thumb!" I know it sounds gruesome, but it's a line from the animated flick Ratatouille. And it was hilarious.

Nanny sleeping. Note the scribbles on the wall behind her.

Noelle and the Lethal Thumb

The Confession

More Evidence

I've not been blogging much lately, because I didn't feel I had anything to share.

Guess that's over.

Potty Training, Take 7 & 8 - Roll 'Em!

I don't mind babies in diapers, and I appreciate when kids are toilet trained. It's just those few, in-between weeks, when the child is deciding between the two, that drive me to the brink.

And that's where we are now.

Usually I follow a child-led program when it comes to solids, weaning, toilet-training, reading readiness, etc. A select few of our children were toilet-trained right around age two, but most of them were beyond their third birthday before they showed signs of giving up the diapers.

Let me just say here that my husband and I feel there is something fundamentally wrong with changing a 3yo's diaper. Infant diapers? No problem. 1yo? Not so bad. But once a kid gets past the second birthday, what comes out of them is essentially the same as what comes out of me, and it isn't cute anymore. I don't want to deal with that. Eww.

Having said all that, I didn't really mind that the twins were still in diapers. I was prepared to wait until they were ready. And then my cousin Jennifer came from Texas to visit, with her husband and six children. Their youngest had just turned two, and she waltzed right in, climbed up on the toilet, did her business and scampered away. I was REALLY impressed, and so were the twins. Since their visit in August, the twins have been talking about Sophia and how she went on the toilet. Once I saw how easy she made it look, it was hard to keep changing diapers cheerfully.

Then there was Natalie's frustrating habit of pulling all the diaper wipes out of the box every time she gets her hands on one. I wouldn't mind if they just got dried out, because they'd just need a splash of water. No - that would be too easy. Instead they have to make it so that the wipes are unusable - getting them just dirty enough with dust, marker, bark, etc. - so that I can't use them in on their butts in good conscience.

But I think what really put me over the edge was that we always seem to be running out of diapers. At this stage in the game I'm not going to buy the size 6 Super Ultra Mega Pack, because they could decide to toilet-train at any moment. Then we'll be stuck with a mountain of diapers that cost a quarter apiece, and I'll have to give them away. So instead we've been buying the single packs, and we are continually "down to the last diaper." Andy kept saying that we just shouldn't buy the next pack, and force them to toilet train.

I don't know exactly what happened on Monday, but something in me just snapped, and I had a showdown with Natalie. I told her that no longer could she draw or paint or have sips of my coffee, because that was for big girls, and only babies used diapers. I took her into the bathroom and I tried everything. Letting the water trickle in the sink. Giving her frequent drinks. Letting her play in warm water. Reading stories. She refused to try to tinkle, and sat on the potty for an hour with a melancholy, downtrodden look of pity on her face. I don't know if the pity was for herself, for having to sit there so long, or for me, because she felt so sorry for me in my stubborn self-delusion. ("Mom, mom, mom...tsk tsk... as if I'm EVER going to pee on this thing. You poor, misguided woman!")

She absolutely loathes the cold, prickly, wet feeling when she has an "accident," and I think that was the problem on Day 1. She kept asking for a diaper whenever she felt the urge, and I flatly refused. I knew she had to go very badly, which is why I insisted she stay on the toilet for so long. Daddy got home and sent me packing defused the situation and let Natalie free, making her promise that she'd go to the bathroom when she felt "the urge." And surely enough, the next time he put her on the toilet, she tinkled, much to the surprise and delight of everybody! We cheered and danced and she proclaimed THE GOOD NEWS joyfully to everybody! And ever since she realized that she wouldn't have that cold, prickly, wet feeling, it's been easy.

The more optimistically foolish of her parents decided to let them sleep diaperless that first night, for fear of sending a mixed message, but Natalie's bed was soaked by morning. Not gonna do THAT again. So after washing and drying the bedding, I decided to explain to them that diapers are in case of an accident, but not to pee in them - just tell somebody and we'll take them to the bathroom.

Day Two. Natalie woke up dry, Noelle's diaper was wet. We put them in underwear and let them loose. Noelle puddled all day like an untrained puppy. Natalie, once she crossed yesterday's mental threshhold, made every single pee in the toilet that day. Both withheld bowel movements.

Day Three. Natalie again woke up dry. Noelle almost made it to the toilet in the morning. Hey, that's a start! Natalie again used the toilet every time, and even made a #2. Boy, there was much rejoicing after THAT one! I took them out (sans diapers) for ice cream cones to celebrate. I even took a picture of it {sicko freak} [ hey, she asked me to!] but my conscience later made me delete it. Noelle had her first tinkle success in the afternoon, and was accident-free for the rest of the day, but withheld her bowel movements. Again I put them in diapers for bedtime, and Natalie proclaimed, "Diapers are STINKY!"

Day Four (today). Natalie woke up dry and went right away. Noelle was dry when she woke, but again didn't get to the bathroom soon enough. However, both of them were diaperless and dry all day, and they even started taking themselves to the bathroom and climbing up. Natalie even wants to handle the TP. Noelle had two #2 successes, and we all went to the donut shop to celebrate. They were both in underwear all day and went on a 2-hr outing with me, and each used a restaurant toilet.

They both had so much sugar today in the form of potty treats that I'm going to be forced to find a different reward.

Now, at bedtime, Natalie is withholding a bm and crying about it. I keep reminding her that it doesn't hurt and she did it yesterday, but that's not helping. When potty-training, I get most frustrated by the fact that I CANNOT CONTROL WHAT THEY DO. And they know it. They are completely in the driver's seat. No matter how reasonable or positive or cajoling or patient or threatening I can be, they are the ones who ultimately decide, and quite frankly, that drives me up a wall.

I'll see you when I get down.

Ladybug Swarm

Here in Pennsylvania (for the last several years that I'm aware of) we've experienced an October ladybug infestation. Actually, I have just learned that they are not true ladybugs. Rather they are Multi-Colored Asian Lady Beetles, which were introduced into North America in the 90s for pest control.

Ladybug, Lady beetle.
Click on the picture for more information.
I won't bore you with the finer points of difference; instead you can read it for yourself if you are interested. Click HERE or HERE.

It usually happens during a warm spell after the first cold snap, which we are currently experiencing. A week of sunny days in the 60s after last week's snowfall. Today there was nowhere you could glance where you couldn't see dozens of them zipping through the air. Once we stepped outside, they were instantly flying right into our faces and ears. The white brick at the front of the house, warmed by the afternoon sun, was crawling with them. They covered the front door, and every time it opened, dozens of them would come inside. Even if we managed to keep them from coming in the open door, we'd still unwittingly bring them inside as they hitched a ride on our clothes and hair.

I have lost much of my squeamishness about bugs as I've "matured," and it's a darn good thing, because I can't tell you how many of them I had to catch and release. I don't like to kill them because they're harmless, and also because of the gross crackling sound they make. Also, I can't be squeamish when my husband isn't around, because now I must be The Brave One, The Vanquisher of Bugs and All Icky Things, so I can be Supermom for my crew of dependents.

As I type, there are scores of lady beetle sentinals lining every windowsill of the house. The light fixtures are also a huge attraction, and there are many little candy-dot-sized shadows in each light cover. I will be vacuuming up most of their dried-out carapaces in a few days, but it won't be a surprise if there are still a few left living in the dead of winter.

These pictures don't really do justice to the numbers of them, but I wasn't going to stay out there trying any longer with the little cretins flying into my ears. Yuck.

And finally, proof that what we are experiencing is absolutely piddling in comparison:

5D and EX1 Lady Bug Swarm from Michael Ramsey on Vimeo.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Memory Lane Monday

Clare loves holidays the most out of everybody in our family. In 2006 she had her heart set on having a Halloween party, but I didn't really want to do it. I thought it was lame, but I felt bad for her. So one weeknight, shortly before bedtime, we had a little family party. We had fresh-baked Pillsbury jack o'lantern cookies, played hot potato with a mini-pumpkin, and took turns bobbing for apples.

The whole thing didn't even take 45 minutes, almost pathetically short, but 3 years later they are still talking about that great Halloween party we had.

It makes me cry, how sometimes it's the smallest things that make them happy, but I didn't even want to take the time to do it.

Here's Scott, the oldest son, showing them how it's done.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Top 5 Things Every Parent of Multiples Needs

Multiples and More is conducting a poll about what parents of multiples most need.

These were my favorite gifts from our twin shower:

1. Diapers, diapers, and more diapers. We received so many diapers at our twins' shower that they filled up the crib to overflowing, and the entire space beneath the crib as well. People gave us size newborn up to size 2. We didn't have to buy a single diaper for at least 6 months. Throw in a few packages of wipes and a few tubes of diaper cream as well.

2. A baby backpack and front carrier. From the time they could hold their heads steady, whenever I went out solo I wore one on my back and one on my front. I would set up the backpack (with kickstand out) on a tabletop (or counter, or back floor of the van or suburban). I'd put the front baby on, then put the second baby in the backpack and put her on as well. They were both happy and both my hands were free.

3. Two bouncer seats. Indispensible. You have to be able to put them down SOMEWHERE, especially once they're big enough to want to see what's going on.

4. Adorable onesies that said, "I was here first" and "No, I was here first." In fact, I appreciated all the matching outfits that we received.

5. Crib sheets. You thought you had enough. You were wrong. My twins also loved the visually stimulating musical mobile I put over their crib (once they noticed it was there).

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Monday, October 12, 2009

Memory Lane Monday

Today's memory is from 2003, when Conor turned 5. I'd been making special birthday cakes for several years at that point, so naturally I asked Conor how he wanted me to decorate his birthday cake. His response? He decided he wanted a "Darth Vader/Motorcycle Dude/Rock Star/Teenager With Spiky Hair" cake.

Tall order, but after much consideration, I pulled it off.

Here I am creating the masterpiece. Concocting all those colors of frosting was tedious, and I don't even want to remember the sugar buzz I had after sampling frosting for several hours.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Sarah & Grandparents

Sarah, with GrandDad (maternal grandfather) & Pat

Sarah with Busha (maternal grandmother)

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Happy 6th Birthday Theresa

Exactly six years ago, we welcomed Theresa Marie into our arms. My blood pressure had been steadily climbing and I'd been swelling up for the last two months of the pregnancy, and when I went in for my 38 week checkup, the doctor said, rather brusquely, "She's 38 weeks. What are you waiting for? Take her upstairs and induce her!"

Although it wasn't quite as quick and easy as she made it sound, I stayed overnight, they started the induction process at 7 a.m. the next morning, and Theresa Marie slipped into the world at 1:00 p.m. on the second push.

Sarah was in the delivery room with us (for the second time,
the first being when Clare was born) and assisted in getting Theresa measured, bathed and dressed.

She was the earliest and tiniest of the babies up until then, weighing exactly 6 pounds.
She also may have been the easiest and most peaceful baby we've had. Unfortunately for us, she was also our earliest walker, at 10 months. She discovered and mastered the steps in one afternoon,and didn't give us much peace after that.

Here she is getting busted as she tries to sneak up the stairs.

1 year old

2 yrs old
(you would think we spend a lot of time at the beach. Not true - once a year, maybe...
but our beach trips usually coincide with her birthday)

3 yrs old, with her chicken birthday cake

4th birthday

5th birthday
6th birthday - her cake is decorated with a pumpkin because before she was born,
Conor said we ought to call her Pumpkin Pie

listening to her talking Hoops and YoYo card for the 10th time!!

she's been waiting to see this for a long time!