After four kids, ten moves and nearly two decades, we are still blissfully in love (most of the time) and I found myself back in the state I was born and raised in. It has definitely been a journey. In fact, on our 18th anniversary we pulled the last of our stuff up over the pass and into Montana, leaving our surprise love, Idaho, behind. But Montana is a great place. The last best place according to some. And we fully intend to explore as much of it as we can! Join us on our continued adventure through life, love and other stuff that comes with it.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Sometimes I feel pretty brilliant

Lately I've been feeling like the kids have just been sucking every last bit of positive energy out of me.  They've been arguing, demanding, ignoring, mean little demons in those cute little bodies.  And on Sunday I was up to here.  Grace interrupted me and was being so rude while I was trying to talk to someone at church.  I took them all out to the car and poked her in the forehead to demonstrate how it felt when she interrupted me like that.

Not my best parenting moment, I'll admit.  But it's those moments that make me really sit back and look at what's been happening and come up with a new strategy.

This time it's an energy chart.  On Sunday night after they flat out ignored me for the umpteen-millionth time, I went up to their rooms that had not been cleaned after countless reminders and the entire day to do so and collected everything that was not put away.  Everything. 

And then I came back down stairs.  They weren't happy.  But I was less happy.  And they needed a way to earn back the laundry basket of their now precious treasures.

They had no ideas.  So we tabled the discussion and they went to bed.

Then I had a brilliant thought.  What if I made a chart to track mom's energy throughout the day.  Brent thought it would be a great lesson in mom's mood swings.  I told him it was a great lesson in cause and effect.

The next morning (Grace didn't have school because Idaho is cool and we get a 4 day Easter weekend) I sat them all down at the table and we had a little talk about mom's energy that went something like this: 

So, if you get up in the morning and I ask you to go potty before breakfast and you stomp your foot, cross your arms and yell, 'NO!', what does that do to mom's energy?

It goes down.

Yes!  And what happens if I ask you to go potty before breakfast and you say, "Okay, mom!" and then you run and do it?

It goes up.

Yes!  And what happens if Grace tries to talk to Calla and Calla ignores her on purpose?

It goes down.

Yes!  And what happens when I ask you to take your clean clothes upstairs and put them away and you ignore me or tell me you hate doing chores?

It goes down.

And what happens when mom's energy goes down too far?

It's not fun.

I think they understood. 

The deal:  They end in SAFE ZONE three days in a row and they can have their stuff back.

Here's the chart I made.  I can't spell "Energy" apparently.  But I got that fixed. 

(Yes, it says "DANGER ZONE   BEWARE")

The first day they were almost off the charts.  I almost passed out when I asked them if they were done playing with the blocks in the living room and heard, "Yes.  I'll go pick them up."  We had a great day.  Quilting, cookies, nobody yelling, only Violet crying because she always cries about everything from the fly dying on the floor to tripping on a sponge.  But honestly, I can handle one emotionally distraught child without getting too distraught.  It's multiple emotionally distraught children that I can't handle.

Yesterday was pretty good, too.

Today was a bit of a struggle.  Grace noticed this after she got home from school.  I'm sure she was wondering what on earth her sisters did all day.

Then she went down stairs and didn't practice her piano until two hours later when we had dinner to clean up and pajamas to get on and teeth to get brushed and books to get read.  That didn't help, either.

They BARELY made it.  Barely.  But they did.  And I didn't have that want-to-poke-you-in-the-forehead feeling today at all.  I'd say it's a pretty accurate chart since that feeling means they are definitely in the "DANGER ZONE."

Tonight Violet was crying because she fell down.  I told her that I was so tired of her crying ALL.THE.TIME.  She looked at me, stopped crying and said, "Does it make your thing go down?"

Monday, April 11, 2011

A different kind of unassisted birth story.

This weekend we got some new babies with feathers.  And today we got some more new babies.

You'd think it was spring.  But you wouldn't know by all the snow still hanging around.

Anyway, last summer we got some kittens.  And those kittens grew into cats.  Now since we are irresponsible pet owners, two of them ended up knocked up.

I've been offering everyone a pregnant cat.  Unfortunately pregnant cats are not that hot of an item these days. 

And there is the fact that my girls would be heart broken if I gave their cats away.

Anyway, these cats have been looking mighty pregnant.  And then today I had one of them trying extremely hard to get into the house.  She was super persistent and evidently got past me without me noticing.

Late in the morning I was letting the dog in and thought I heard some squeaking in our coat room/entry way.  At first I thought it was mice.  I did a little searching around and find the cat kind of shuddering, all curled up in a box. 

Dangit, I thought to myself.  She's having her kittens IN MY HOUSE! 

And sure enough, she was.  At that point kitten number three had arrived, in the caul for you birth junkies out there.  Pretty cool, actually.  I'm kicking myself for just standing there staring at it and not getting a picture.

I had a friend over.  I went and got her.  She was equally fascinated by it.

Then we got the kids.  They were glowing with excitement.

Calla thought her cat was laying kittens. No, honey.  She's not a chicken and those aren't eggs.

But this is a placenta the cat is eating. 

This was equally confusing to Calla.  I told her that is what kept the baby kitty alive when it was in its mommy.  The placenta fed and breathed for the baby.   Later Calla was talking to Grace and asked me what the babies came out of.  I told her the kittens came out of the va.gina. 

"Yea!  And then she ATE IT!"

"No, honey.  She ate the placenta."

Then she proceeded to make a "placento" out of the play dough they had spread all over the table.

Two things struck my friend and I as we stood there watching this cat give birth.  1)  The mama cat had chosen, to quote my friend, the smallest box in the world.  And 2) the mama cat was purring contentedly as she labored and gave birth to FIVE kittens.

"Yea.  Didn't you purr when you were in labor??" 


"Oh.  That's weird."

Okay, I added that last part.

There are five brand new babies in total.  And after she birthed all of them, ate the placentas, and cleaned them all up, she just curled up and purred and kneaded her box and her nursing kittens all afternoon.  As far as I know, she's out there still doing that.

Calla had to watch them all nurse.  It's pretty phenomenal how they all, blind and as far as we can judge, helpless, root around and latch on to their mother.  Yea, it took them a while, but last I was out there they all were content and nursing and sleeping and their mother doesn't look a bit worried or stressed.

This is what stressed her out.

I had the nerve to pick up one of her babies and take a picture of it.  THAT is what stressed her out.  She actually got up, came out of her box as far as I was, grabbed her baby and quickly retreated back to her box.

Did I mention that this cat is a first-time mom?

Recently I've been reading a lot about babies and instinct and how it serves us and our babies and how our society seems hell-bent on turning off a mother's instinct.  The comparison made me kind of giggle.  I certainly didn't see this first-time mom questioning everything.

Are they big enough? Are they small enough? Is it my due date?  Am I overdue? Is it too early? Should I try for a natural birth or do I think I'll need an epidural?  Is it okay to push? Am I getting enough fluids? Are they warm enough? Are they too warm? Are they nursing yet? Are they getting enough? What if they get too much? Is my milk coming in even? What about their latch??!! OH MY GOSH!  Am I doing it right??!!

No.  None of that.  She's just curled up in her smallest box in the world oblivious to pretty much the rest of the world purring away and relishing every moment.  (That is unless I try to take one away.  We figured that out.)

We can learn a lot from this new mama.

Birth is so amazing.  Instinct is so powerful.

I realize now that she picked the smallest box in the world on purpose.  All the more warmth wrapped around her brand new babies.

Brent emailed me from work telling me that he would have to work late one night next month.  I emailed him back saying that I see his working late and raise him five kittens. 

"Yay," he deadpans.  "Did she tell you who the father was?"

No, and he didn't even show up.  But the kids just got a pretty awesome example of natural birth and instinct and nursing and all that fun stuff that is so amazing in and of itself.  All from the smallest box in the world.

Anyone want a kitten?  We have five.  And probably about that many more on the way here soon.  I wonder if I have any more of those little boxes.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Babies with feathers

On Thursday Brent came home and eventually told me that he met someone who had a bunch of chickens they were trying to get rid of.  For free.  We've been talking about getting some more chickens to shore up our flock a little.  And I pretty much jumped all over that opportunity today and went to get our seven new babies.  Except they aren't fuzzy, they're all feathered out already. Perfect!

Some might argue that really I was jumping at the chance to get out of the house and go do something fun, but I won't admit to anything like that.  And for the record, I did take half of the children.

Anyway, of course they need names, right? At least in a house with all these kids chickens need names.

  However, it was already decided that since it was so hard to tell all the black ones apart, they would all have the same name.  Same for the brown ones.  Eventually the black ones were named Bunny and the brown ones were named something else that I don't recall.  But, before we go out to clean out the coop and get them all settled, Grace takes a poll to see what we should name the one chicken that's different--the yellow one.

Technically it's buff in chickendom, but we'll go with yellow. 

Mom, what should we name the yellow chicken?


Calla, what should we name the yellow chicken?


Violet, what should we name the yellow chicken?


Dad, what should we name the yellow chicken?

Egg Nog!

And then she paces the house for roughly ten minutes studying her poll and trying to work out what she thinks we should name the yellow chicken.

Grace's poll.

Meet Sunshine.

But just so you know, I fully intend to call this chicken Egg Nog.  Because that's just a plain awesome name for a yellow chicken.  Right up there with Green.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

We love grandmas! (And grandpas, too!)

Calla brought a note home from preschool last week saying that a group of ladies from one of the churches that supports the preschool had a present for each of the preschoolers.  Parents were invited to come to the presentation. 

And then this morning I had two little kids with fevers.  On a normal day I would have just made the decision that Calla wasn't going to go to school.  But today I felt I needed to call in reinforcements--AKA Daddy.

Daddy was up for the task, as always.  And I'm really glad, because this is right up Calla's alley.

That's right!  This group of ladies (many of them grandmothers) MADE a quilt for every child in Calla's preschool.  And Calla is absolutely thrilled with hers.  I haven't seen her without it for more than 5 minutes since she got home.  All she can do is smile about her quilt and the "quiltmakers" that made it for her.

So I called Calla's teacher to tell her how great I thought that was--that these things make my heart happy.  While I was talking to her, Grace was dutifully practicing her piano in the background and she asked who that was playing the piano.  I told her it was Grace practicing for her grandma's birthday party.  (But don't tell grandma!)  Naturally she then asked if it was the grandma with the white fridge or the grandma with the black fridge.

This just made me laugh.  Why?  Because it's just a glimpse into the funny little world behind our front door.   A couple years ago Grace found out that one of her friends had a grandma Mimi. This made her laugh because she thought it was kind of a weird name for a grandma.  She thought it was weird right up until I reminded her that she has 1) grandma with the black fridge, 2) grandpa who lives with the grandma with the black fridge, 3) grandma with the white fridge (formally known as grandma snicklefritz), 4) grandpa silly, and 5) the other grandma.  Some of these grandparents even sign birthday and other holiday cards with these titles.  The titles are loving titles that are used with great affection around here. 

To answer the original question, the grandma with the birthday is Grandpa Silly's mom.  We're excited to celebrate with her!  Because we love grandparents!  All kinds of grandparents. 

Friday, April 1, 2011


I'm not one to pull April Fools' jokes on people.  But when I read about the sponge cakes I thought maybe I could pull it off.

And then my friend wanted to go sledding with all the kids.  Perfect.  I can make six little cakes instead of three!

So, last night I pulled together six little sponge cakes.

They were so excited about their little cakes.  I even put the first initial of each of their names on them.

It was humorous when they realized that their sponge cakes were actually frosted sponges.  We all giggled. 

And then they licked their sponges. 

I don't think they were disappointed at all.  How horrible is it for kids to have to lick frosting off of sponges, anyway?? 

I love kids.  They are so fun.