Saturday, June 30, 2012

Picture Parade: Flower Flag, Before and After

June 9, 2012

June 30, 2012

Not bad!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Monday, June 25, 2012

Regina and Puppy: BFFs.

I was shopping at a thrift store recently, and the twins took Regina back to look at toys while I looked through the clothing.  Regina found this pull-along puppy and clutched it to her bosom in a vise-grip for the duration of the shopping trip.  When I tried to take it from her at the checkout, her eyes widened in terrified panic.  Taking the puppy AWAY???  Noooooooo!

The last thing this house needs is another rattly plastic toy to trip over, but Andy doesn't call me the Ice Cream Lady for nothing. (Mrs. Softie?  Get it?)  

Bottom line:  she loves her puppy, cradles him in her arms, and pulls him all over creation.

Minor Mishap

Picture Parade: Too Smart For Her Own Good.

Picture Parade: Growing Like A Weed.

This dress was ankle length when I bought it last summer.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Picture Parade. Yeah. Don't Even Ask.

Noelle wants to look like Sam Sparks.

Picture Parade: Snoozin'

Regina, exhausted by the very act of eating dinner.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Big Drama at the Stefo House Today

Found this in the third floor bathroom today.
What a giant baby I am - my first instinct was to stand there frozen and scream.
Learned later that it's an Eastern Milk Snake.

It looks so small here.  Trust me, it looked a lot larger gliding across my bathroom threshhold.

3 feet long at least.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Picture Parade: Tuckered Out

This is Noelle.  No, she's not hiding.  This is how she fell asleep after a fun afternoon of pond swimming with friends.
And that, Sarah, is why I love the color orange.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

The temperature sensor on my vehicle today.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Picture Parade: Trying Her Darndest.

When she finally gave up trying to put her socks on, she tried to put them on the baby instead.  :)

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Happy Father's Day, Hon.

Thank you, Lord, for the steady, hard-working husband and father with which we've been blessed.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Friday, June 15, 2012

Promptings of the Spirit

I believe in the Holy Spirit. And not in some vaguely conceptual way. I believe that the Holy Spirit is actively at work, in large ways and small, in my life every day.

Whoa. Did I just say that out loud? I usually don't talk about this to anyone unless I am convinced that their beliefs are in line with mine. But I want to share something that happened to me when we first moved into this house, and I can't tell the story without prefacing it.

I believe that those gut feelings I sometimes get, those hunches, those unexpected complications and annoying delays are really the Holy Spirit prompting and guiding me. And more than once, by following those "instincts," I have been spared from harm or led into a favorable situation.

Case In Point: Our dentist's office is 25 miles away, and it takes a minimum of 30 minutes to get there under the best conditions. There are so many people in our family with teeth that I schedule multiple cleanings at the same time, instead of making the trip on many separate days. The dentist office is so busy that you have to book your appointments 12 months in advance. 

In spite of all that, I found myself loading the kids into the van only 15 minutes before the appointment time.  Arriving on time would be a physical and spatial impossibility.

You can imagine that I was already flustered and frustrated. Now, mix in one carsick kid. With great impatience and resentment (for the delay, not the kid) I pulled over to the side of the road. He didn't get sick, but he did walk it off and breathe in the fresh air for a short while. And we got underway once again.

Not two miles farther down the road, we saw warning flares. And there in front of us was a multi-car pileup. Shattered glass lay all over the road. It had happened so recently that the cars hadn't been removed from the roadway and the police hadn't arrived yet. And I can't help but think that if we hadn't been delayed that extra few minutes, we would have been part of it. 

Coincidence? Could be.

I have learned the hard way not to ignore those nagging feelings. Many years ago (circa 1997), when I only had three little kids and was still singing in the choir, I felt the strongest reluctance to go to choir practice one evening. My husband wasn't home that night, so I'd have to take the kids with me, and it was a school night,...yada yada. I just plumb didn't want to go, but I packed 'em all up, got a good parking spot right out in front of the church, and went inside.

I forgot one of my song books in the car, though, so I sent the kids out to get it. They retrieved the book, returned to the church door, and as it was swinging shut I could hear a commotion outside. Shortly thereafter, somebody ran to the church door and called in, "Does anybody here drive a blue station wagon? Somebody just crashed into it."

I shudder to think how many seconds those kids were away from being in that car when that drunk driver came careening down the street, bouncing like a ping-pong ball off of fifteen parked cars. I am eternally grateful that they were spared from harm, but I will never forget how strongly I had felt I should stay home that night.  I chose to ignore my gut feeling, and we were out one blue station wagon as a result.

The instance I want to relate took place on a Friday night in September 2008, but it requires a bit of explanation.

Our house has two kitchens...One on the main floor which we use all the time, and a second one up on the third floor, in a large room that used to be a daycare. Someday it could be a 2 bdr apt., but now it's a rec room with a kitchenette, 2 bedrooms, and some exercise equipment.  We usually hang out downstairs where the fireplace is, but for some reason on that particular Friday I had everyone truck up there to watch a movie and have snacks.

Before we went upstairs, I heated up a can of Spaghetti-Os and grabbed a few other things to munch on. Once up there, I preheated the oven to bake popcorn chicken.

Now, my 7yo Clare had been whining to me for weeks that she needed an ear cleaner (Q-tip). Of course, I usually don't carry Q-tips with me, and she'd only ask for them when we were in church, or in the car, or somewhere else similarly devoid of Q-tips. And of course, by the time we got home to where the Q-tips live, we'd both have forgotten about it. So Friday night she whined about it again, but bingo! I knew exactly where the Q-tips were - only a few steps away! So I stepped out of the room to get them.

Something smelled funny. Smelled hot. At first I thought it was just the smell of the electric oven preheating, since it doesn't get much use. But there was that funny feeling again, so I moved a little closer to the staircase. And the smell was stronger there.

I wasn't too terribly worried, because our fireplace has had smoke backing into the living room since Christmas Eve (when I caused a chimney fire, another story). The smoke detectors go off every day, and also every time we open the oven door, so I wasn't too alarmed. But the farther down the stairs I went, the worse the smell got, and the hazier the air became with smoke. By the time I got all the way down, I couldn't see across the living room, and the acrid smoke was choking me.

And there, on the stove, was the pot I used to heat the Spaghetti-Os that I forgot to turn off before going upstairs. The pot's contents were blackened and the smoke was terrible. And for once, the smoke detectors hadn't gone off.

Could there have been a fire? I don't know...probably. Would I have been so quick to get Clare a Q-tip if she hadn't been bugging for so long? Maybe, maybe not. All I can say is that I believe with all my heart that all the factors were put into play by the Holy Spirit to come together at that one moment to spare us from harm. You can scoff, or give me an "Amen!" or dismiss it as dumb luck or blind chance.

But I'll just keep on believing anyway, thank you very much.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

A Day In The Homeschooling Life

I found a copy of this old journal tucked away in a photo album. I can't remember what prompted me to record this particular day in our lives. I think I did it to show somebody what our "perfect" family does every day. Pretty soon I'm should try to chronicle another unvarnished day in the life to remember what life in the looney bin is like these days. The family has changed so much since then.  I have to admit, though - the thought of chronicling the parallel activities of 10 people makes me cringe.

Ten years ago - wow!  This log centers on Tuesday, April 9, 2002, but I had to include Monday night for it to make sense.

The players: Dad, 34 years old, working day shift
Mom, 33 years old, sahm to 5 children, classical homeschooler, aspiring morning-person
Sarah, 11, night owl, softball player
Scott, 9, high strung, very helpful, first baseman
Brian, 5, resident Wrecking Ball, mischievous, plays tee-ball
Conor, 3, "Baby Chick," adorable, stubborn
Clare, 10 months, nursing addict

At this point in our lives we have been homeschooling for 3 years and Mom is still very energetic. Lots of art study, poetry, music, plus Latin. Housework was a very large challenge to us (who am I kidding - it still is), since homeschooling takes up a large part of our typical day and extracurricular activities take up the evenings.

Monday night
9:00 pm
Dad walked baby Clare to sleep while I read to Brian & Conor; said goodnight to the boys.

Goodnight to Sarah turned into 45-minute discussion about marriage, financial responsibility, checking accounts and credit cards (at 10:00 Brian came sneaking in).

Put Brian back in bed. I went to bed to read and to wake the sleeping baby enough to nurse her, since I was uncomfortably full because Dad walked her to sleep.

10:30, 10:40, 10:42, 10:50, 10:54, 10:58, 11:10
Brian gets out of bed because he “can’t sleep.”

Brian sneaks into my bed. I pretend to be asleep, hoping he’d go away. He wakes up the baby, then promptly falls asleep. Now the baby wants to play.

12:30 a.m.
I give up trying to nurse her back to sleep or keep her from waking Daddy, and take her downstairs. We eat Easter candy and I watch a movie while she is cute and content, crawling around, playing.

2:30 a.m.
I come back upstairs after the movie ends. Clare has passed out in my arms and I successfully lay her down without waking her.

3:30 a.m.
I finally fall asleep.

Tuesday morning
5:45 a.m.
My husband thinks he has some chance of waking me up at the time we had agreed upon, before all of last night’s nonsense began.

Revised alarm goes off – I ignore it until Scott comes in to shut it off. He crawls into my bed and snoozes it for an hour.

The alarm automatically shuts off after an hour, so we are able to go back to sleep without any further interruptions.

Brian comes in, then Conor. We wake slowly, scratching alphabet letters on each others’ backs, playing the ‘leg sweep’ game. Clare is happy jumping in the crib. Scott showers. Normally Clare would wake up before 8:00 a.m., nurse back to sleep, and stay asleep until about 1:00 or 2:00 in the afternoon. Not today, though, with all the commotion.

With Clare still in the crib, I take a “self-preservation” shower. This means that if I don’t, I’m going to feel so grimy and oily that I’ll be miserable.

Sarah showers, I make notes for this log, Brian & Conor play cars, and Scott antagonizes them.

Dressed for the day – I attempted (unsuccessfully) to nurse the baby back to sleep while the kids went down to eat. They had cereal amid much strife – fighting over bowls and spoons, who was hogging the cereal, passing the milk, etc. Again, Scott is the source of it.

Scott begins math (on his own), Brian & Conor (henceforth B&C) play with Bug’s Life figures, and Clare motors around on the floor looking for choking hazards.

Phone rings. Sarah fouls up computer boot-up (back in the dial-up days) and the phone call is cut short by the modem screeching in our ears. I yell at Sarah for thinking she knows everything, then yell at B&C to clean up the three messes they’ve made so far. Baby is crawling up my leg (she did manage to find a jellybean a few minutes ago). Scott is TRYING to concentrate on math. I still haven’t eaten or dried my hair. PS – I hate it when my mother calls during school hours.

I decide on cheese melted on tortillas, and canned pineapple. The baby crawled around the kitchen floor crying after me the whole time I was preparing my “breakfast.” Scott finally gave up on math and took pity on her and held her on his lap until I could sit down to eat. Brian is playing computer; Conor is around here somewhere but quiet (I better go take a look), and I think Sarah is sulking because I yelled at her.

Sar wasn’t sulking; she was reading about sharks. I’m feeding the baby prunes while I eat and write this. No school being done at the moment.
Sink – full of dishes.
Table – full of crumbs from last night’s dinner and today’s breakfast.
Couch – loaded with 5 batches of clean laundry in various stages of foldedness

Sarah gets her math book. B&C doing puzzles. I don’t even want to look at the floor in there.

Brian dashes in to grab his kindergarten math book, which requires my full attention. 3 kids doing math at once – not good. They all distract each other. Oh no – now Conor is running in clamoring for his “piggy” book (a preschool math workbook with pigs on the cover). Oh, boy…
P.S. Clare doesn’t like pineapple.
P.P.S. Scott went in to finish the puzzles.

THREE RING MATH CIRCUS. At least I’ve eaten and I’m feeling human again. Scott isn’t back yet from the puzzles.

Scott’s back. Conor is on the counter. Brian is doing quite well solo in his math book. I take back what I said before – he can work alone sometimes.

Doorbell rings – kids adjourn to see their homeschooled friend Casey for a minute.

A minute turns into 20 while they show her a new game that was a birthday gift.
Sarah – poetry.
Scott – divisibility rules

Scott, Brian & Casey are playing Tonka Construction on the computer. I’m doing Latin with Sarah. Conor & Clare are playing on the floor.

Clare crawled into the kitchen during the Latin lesson – big distraction. Sar couldn’t/wouldn’t do the exercises, so we analyzed one complicated sentence, then called it quits. Now I’m trying again for Clare’s nap, writing sideways in bed as we nurse. Sink and laundry still untouched. I should think about lunch, shouldn’t I? I left Scott with a penmanship verse and some poems to browse. Didn’t do much of anything educational with B&C so far today – time is running out, since they burn out early and today is baseball practice. Scott needs geography, science, history. Religion wouldn’t hurt, either, though they get a lot of informal instruction and example in that area.

Clare is asleep! But she’s still nursing and I can’t get away yet without waking her.

Okay, she’s soundly out and I’m free! I decide to take a few minutes to fix my hair – call it sanity preservation. Kids are all quiet downstairs though I doubt any school is happening!
PS – blowdryer is missing. Thanks, Sarah. Yes, it's been three hours and my hair's still wet. I have very thick hair.

Well, at least the front half of my hair looks nice now. I’m going to order the kids to do a "ten-second tidy" while I decide on lunch.

Lunch is on the table. Boys are eating grilled cheese sandwiches and pretzels. I’ll be eating three pieces of scrapple as soon as they’re fried hard enough for my liking. The last x minutes were spent emptying and loading the dishwasher, and washing up the sinkful of dishes. During that time, the kids took all their Easter candy out, spread it all over the living room floor to sort it, then LEFT IT THERE when lunch was ready. Their teamwork was incredible, though.
PS – Conor hid a hard-boiled egg inside a plastic one and put it in the candy bag, so maybe it’s a good thing they sorted the candy before too long!

I don’t remember smiling yet today. Brian told me yesterday that I don’t smile very much. That really hurt and I’m going to work on it. I’m going to make dinner (quiche) while I eat. Also a pumpkin pie, since my DH requested one. Why not? The oven’s on anyway. Mind you, this is extremely atypical for me!

It’s only 2:30??????????????? I’ve eaten and I’m still making quiche – little hands kept snitching the broccoli I had prepared, so I had to prepare more. Kids have cleaned up candy and are now playing computer and watching TV.

B&C wandered in and are now mixing pumpkin pie with me. I’m not a custard pie baker but I hope for their sake it turns out well. I’m sitting down for a few minutes now. PS – Conor’s been running around in his underwear for a few hours now for some reason.

A little electronic solitaire, a couple books for Conor, now I’m building puzzles with him. Quiche is not done yet because our oven is slow. The 3 oldest kids are still playing a computer game.

Quiche done, pie going in. I think it’s going to be a flop – too soupy. I watched last night’s movie again while I got all the laundry folded. Baby got up at 4:00.

Drove to baseball to see if it was cancelled by rain or not. Sarah went to Brianna’s house rather than hang out in the car at the ball field for an hour.

Cancelled!!!!!! We visit with grandparents for a while instead.

Scott and I went to library for something new and exciting to read.

Retrieved BC from grandparents’ house and went home.

Daddy’s home! We actually spend some time in recreation together!

I give the boys a warning that bedtime will commence shortly. Scott is very emotional and everything is upsetting him – he also feels bad that he didn’t get a good day of school done but it’s too late to change that now. Everything B&C are doing is wrong and bothering Scott!
PS - B&C declare that they never ate dinner (not true, we had quiche, which they don’t like), so I give them a bagel and chocolate milk.

Kids head upstairs to dress for bed, brush teeth, and fight. Dad yells – boys all get into bed. Sarah is just getting home from Brianna’s.

After a little talking, I say final (I hope) goodnight, and warn Brian not to repeat last night or he’ll be sleeping in the hallway.

I nurse baby to sleep, say goodnight to Sarah, go down to look for this log, and do a laundry transfer – dry laundry to basket, wet laundry to dryer, dirty laundry to washer.

Found the log!!! I’m going to spend some computer time now typing it up. Today was an okay school day for Sarah, not-so-good for Scott, B&C were played with and read to, and the house is fairly neat.

After several trips to the bathroom, Sarah came downstairs and said we were keeping her awake.

Clare woke up crying, and Sarah went up to get her.

12:08 a.m.
Sarah and Clare are still awake downstairs. I’m going to print this out and then go to bed. Hopefully Clare will cooperate!
PS – the pumpkin pie was fine.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Picture Parade: Strange Fruit.

That's Theresa peeking out of the top of the dogwood tree.  Yes, that's right, I said the top of the dogwood.  Sheesh.  I took the picture looking out of a second floor window, and she was about eye level with me.  I'd guess it's only about 20 feet off the ground.

Strange Wardrobe Choices

Kim over at The Mommy Machine made a post about this, so I couldn't resist sharing something.

Through the years, my kids have occasionally demonstrated an affinity for some strange wardrobe items.

When my oldest daughter was in single digits, she dressed purely for comfort. She had texture issues. The pattern/fashion was negligible - she only wanted to be comfy. It was with her that I first learned that socks should be put on inside-out so those scratchy toe seams wouldn't bother her. I also learned to avoid velour and crushed velvet at all costs. I could go looking through the old pictures to find a good example of her eclectic style, but she'd kill me. Or cut my hair while I'm sleeping. {JK. She's devious but not malicious.}

One of them wanted to wear his Batman costume all year round. And since I couldn't see the harm in it, I let him. (I was already carting around 5 or 6 kids - it was too late to care what people thought of me) It was a mad-awesome costume, after all. I don't have any pictures. Just imagine me trucking to the grocery store in March with 4 children and a three-foot-tall Batman in tow.

Conor's nickname used to be "Boots." His favorite color has always been red, so one year he received red rubber rain boots, which he wore until they fell off his feet. We replaced the first pair with identical boots. People didn't recognize him without his boots. I think he wore red rubber boots, winter and summer, from 2000 until 2004.

Clare and Theresa wear their Christmas dresses year round. This was taken in October.

Clare also is a huge fan of Little House on the Prairie. I made the girls sunbonnets and aprons last year for Christmas, and my mom found the perfect dress at the Sal Val. Clare can be seen here, running laps in her prairie dress.

And finally, at one point, some of my children thought that spandex exercise unitards were the bomb.
For you SpongeBob fans, my husband affectionately refers to this photo as "Mermaid Man and Barnacle Boy."

Breathtaking moment:

Not exactly breathtaking, but touching ... after taking the Christmas tree down, my 12yos got the vacuum cleaner out to sweep up the fallen needles without being told, asked, prompted or threatened...

Friday, June 8, 2012

Gardening: Before

There's been a lot of gardening going on the past month or so.  Just yesterday, we decided to reclaim the jungle plot that's been growing under the dogwood.

It was centipede heaven under there.
I dreamed of squirming masses of centipedes last night.

Mission accomplished; now it's filled with a variety of impatiens.
And centipedes.

Hello, Lantana!  

I was so delighted to find my favorite flower at a local nursery.  This grows in abundance in the El Paso, the roadways are lined with huge bushes of this flowering beauty...but it is much more scarce around here.    I found only these two plants, and that was after shopping in four distinct nurseries.  I love it because of its continual flowers, and because it tolerates heat, and dryness,  . . . and neglect.

Over the past few weeks, Andy and the boys ripped out the row of dying hedges that lined the front yard.  You can see the same kind of hedges lining the neighbor's yard in the background of the picture.  

In their place, we planted a row of flowers.  

Geraniums at the corners...

followed by a colorful row of dahlias, 

 salvia, and sun-hardy begonias.

On the other side, geraniums, followed by forty feet of marigolds.

Although it's difficult to see at this time, the pictures below are petunias planted in the pattern of an American flag.  

Yes, I hang our laundry out to dry.
It smells wonderful that way.
They do look rather pathetic, don't they...

We're going to string the runners in lines; hopefully it will look better once they take root and fill in.

In a few weeks I'll post more pictures to show how everything has progressed.