Saturday, October 30, 2010


My laptop has come down with a nasty virus. This is on the heels (or the wheels?) of our van needing more extensive repair than we cross-our-fingers-scrunch-our-nose-close-our-eyes-and-grimace were hoping.


My children have rediscovered their mother (who has not spent all day trying to feverishly fit a lesson in between allrecipes reviews and Google reader). We have sewn together, read together, cleaned together, played outside together, and even ((once)) napped together.

And friends!! They've come here, we've gone there. We've tea-partied and leaf-jumped, tractor-rode and marshmallow-oozed.

But still.

I miss my laptop.

And blogging.

I have little worthwhile to say, but my fingers do enjoy the typing.

So when I can steal Ethan's laptop to get a few words in edgewise, I will.

And when I can't? I'll try to remember how to use a cookbook and where the knitting needles are. And we'll be thankful for the real wide world of webs that sways just outside our door. And maybe, just maybe, if my computer does get fixed, it will only be a "come back when you can't stay so long" kind of friend, and not a constant companion.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Picking the right diaper

works for me wednesday at we are that family

If you use cloth diapers, you'll just want to skip this tip.

This is not a post about cloth vs. disposable, Pampers vs. Thirsties. I've tried almost every brand, disposable and cloth, and it came down to this: Ethan hates cloth, and I can't blame him. They do stink (yes, they do), and we both dislike the inevitable gigantic bubble a cloth-swaddled bottom is. We usually have three kids at a time in diapers (two sets of twins ensures that), and I don't have time for the extra laundry. Besides, when my mom babysat our first twins in cloth, she showed up the next day with two huge boxes of disposable diapers.

If you use and love cloth, that's fine by me. Even I have my secret stash of cloth to ooh and aaah over and perhaps someday reuse so Ethan can remind me why I love my Luvs. (That's just for the homonym -- MY personal favorites are Target's "Up and Up.")

Huh. I said it wasn't a post about cloth vs. disposable. I'm glad I said that, 'cuz I could have fooled me.

Moving right along...

This is for when you have multiple children in multiple sizes of diapers. Not all brands have different designs for the different sizes. So when you shout for a child to hand you a diaper from the diaper basket, you usually get handed the wrong size. Which means the diapered kid ends up whining two octaves higher or having the diaper wrapped around him twice before it's fastened.

Enter this tip. (I know, I know...such build-up...)


(Ignore the vagrant shoe in the middle right of the pic. I said IGNORE it!)

You looked for the shoe, didn't you? You're getting distracted!
Now all I have to say is, "Hand me a diaper without a dot!" or "Hand me a diaper with a dot!"

I know. This tip has an extremely limited audience. I would say, "Cheer up! We're changing the world, one diaper at a time!" but a google search revealed that's pretty cliche.

Oh, well. It makes me feel like a problem-solver when I pull out my sharpie and rip open the diaper pack. And when I pull out my sharpie, rip open the diaper pack, and take a picture simultaneously, well.

It works for me!

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Little Cultivation

I'm convinced it was more than happenstance that my first gardening venture, in which my mother told me to pull out all the clover, ended with Mom stuttering through a shocked, "Don't you know what clover is?" when I proudly handed her my armful of what turned out to be irises.

My thumb is green. My plants? Not so much.

But two Master Gardeners visited this week, and the garden is hopeful.

I snuck this picture of my mother-in-law moving the large...erm...bushicus pricklipus from the middle of the garden to the more visually pleasing corner:

And then Karen came by Thursday, said, "Oh, she moved the ____________________ [insert real name, which escapes my mind because I do not remember first and last names unless I'm yelling them daily]! Oh, wonderful! Oh, I just want to come garden Saturday!"

So she did. She called it therapy. Or she did, until the six older children joined her. Then she stopped calling it that.

Ethan and I still need to edge and mulch it, but the garden is full. Bedded down for winter are irises, lilies, acuba, daffodils, tulips, phlox, columbine, and a baby maple that's staying warm until we decide where to put it. And those bushicus pricklipus.

Or is it pricklipi?

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Green Acres

So today Ethan's mom left to go back to Colorado Springs. I would add a "sniff, sniff," but the truth is that I am just elated she doesn't live in Alaska anymore (although we really wanted to use her as a reason to have to go back there, but the money to haul us out there hadn't magically appeared in 8 years). Goodbyes were much harder when she had to make that trek. But Colorado Springs seems like a mere jaunt down the road (via air, of course).

I have spent the 9 days she's been here much as I would my regular days (with more outings), only significantly more aware of how LOUD and WHINY and SCREECHY this household is. You get kind of used to the chaos and mayhem, until you have a visitor that stays too long for you to keep the fussy kids hidden in the closet. Out they come, and then you realize that this household is truly anti-functional and a big smile and hairbows in the girls' hair are not going to change the preceding forty minutes of "He's pinching me! That's MY balloon! Who tooted? Who tooted? Who tooted?"

Come on, kids. Do you know how many times in the past week I've said, "We don't talk like that" when it is abundantly clear that we do? And when I say WE do, I do not mean the all-inclusive sense of the word. I mean the ALL OF YOU sense of the word.

The bickering was substantially lessened when Grandma bought both Ben and Lily new bikes. Their bikes were passed down, which ended the "how many minutes on the timer until I get a chance to ride?" They took Lily to the school across the road to practice riding without training wheels, and she called me five minutes later to tell me she was doing it! Now she's a pro, which Benjamin loves. They can ride circles around our driveway for hours.

We had plans for what we would do while Grandma was here. Half of those were scrapped when we realized three days into it that the babies were not going to instantly stop their whole-van-ride hollering just because Grandma was in the van. Quite the opposite - they sought opportunities for encores. So we did what we could  - half of the Frontier Culture Museum, the Green Valley Book Fair, dinner at the house of kind friends in Harrisonburg, Costco (it counts!!), picnic at Braley Pond, lunch with her and my parents at the Depot Grille, Machen Retreat Center, Andre Viette's garden, my weekly morning out for coffee with friend Barbara at Newtown Bakery, and Polyface Farms.

Yes, Polyface Farms. I had to remind the children of where we were going: "You know...the place with all the chickens. We're going to go chase the chickens!" Well, guess what we couldn't find when we got to Polyface. And then we could find, and they were upside down in the killing cones, dripping blood down their little heads. Three workers deftly chopped at plucked poultry, pulling out innards and tossing the carcasses into ice water.

The kids were fascinated. The only thing better than chasing a live chicken is watching the butchering process!

Immediately prior to us finding the chickens, two little tow-headed boys (around 6 and 5 years old?) asked if we wanted to take the tour of the farm. "Oh, that's OK," we answered. "We already gave ourselves the tour."

"Didja see what our dog Michael killed?" they prodded.

When they discovered we had not, in fact, taken the extensive-blood-and-guts tour, they quickly had us turn around and head back toward the store. "It's something wild," they hinted.

I started guessing. "A mouse?"


"A rabbit?"


"Snake? Fox? Skunk? Squirrel?"

We rounded the front porch of the store. "No, no, no, no. Here it is!" And with that, the older of the two boys started kicking a very dead groundhog while the younger child picked it up by the scruff of its neck so that we could see its rodent teeth.

My children were enthralled. Each child got as close as he could to the prized trophy. The babies started squirming, and we called the children away. Jonathan was the last to come, and he hurled a few well-aimed parting kicks at the groundhog.

The resident children pointed us in the direction of the upside-down chickens, and we left Polyface feeling ... oddly enough ... hungry.

After grabbing a bite from Wright's Dairy Rite and touring Andre Viette's fall gardens, we went back home to put the littles down for what turned out to be 3-hr. naps. Ethan went in to church to get some work done, and I plopped  frozen chicken into some boiling water to get a head start on the evening's tacos.


It turns out nobody was too interested in eating tacos made with the bananas I was boiling. After Ethan gave me much grief about "who freezes bananas?" he picked up some ground beef and we had much more conventional tacos.

And now the fun with Grandma is over. Ethan and Ben left a couple of hours ago to take her to the airport. The children still smell like her, her room looks empty (but only for a few more hours until we reassemble the crib and playpen back into there), and I am realizing that my week of neglecting the house sort of really shows. And sticks.

Years ago, when Ethan's mom came from Alaska and we came from Virginia and met in Seattle, we visited Ethan's grandmother. We were only there for a short time, and when we left, Marlys (my mother-in-law) said, "Well, it's best to leave them wanting more."

You did it, Mom. You left us wanting more.

Come back soon.

Miriam, Abraham and Grandma at Frontier Culture Musuem - taken by Benjamin

Grandma, Salem, and Gideon - taken by Benjamin

Catching crayfish at Braley Pond

Jon-Jon and Abraham at Polyface. Abraham is going to build Grandma a house, and he and she will live there. When Ethan and I get old, we can live there, too. It will be purple and pink, and there will always be cookies and milk.

Ethan's favorite Polyface cow. We named him "Burger."

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Polyface Farms

Saturday we headed out to our first adventure with the homeschool group. We followed the GPS ten minutes from our house down back roads until we reached Polyface Farms.

Did you hear (read) me? We went to Polyface Farms!

Do you know that I do not know anybody in Staunton that has been to Polyface? Well, OK, I now know about twenty homeschool families. But other than them?

This boggles my mind. Polyface is one of the coolest, low-key, good-ole-country-boy kinds of farms. The Salatins are the owners. Did that help? Does the name "Joel Salatin" ring any bells?

The first time I had ever heard of Joel Salatin, we were at the State Fair. I passed by the Dairy Booth and asked the giggling college-aged volunteers if they knew of any sources for raw milk. "Raw milk?" they asked, eyes open wide and noses scrunched (which is surprisingly hard to do simultaneously -- you tried, didn't you??). "Ewww!"

Ah, yes. Cows can be surprisingly "ewww"-y.

Anyway, I politely thanked them for their unhelpful ignorance and headed out the door. A lady with a long broomstick skirt, braided hair, and Birkenstocks handed me a pamphlet about petitioning Virginia's lawmakers to change the laws concerning the sale of raw milk. Quoted all throughout the brochure was a "Joel Salatin." I liked him instantly. Aha! Someone who knew where to find a cow!

And Saturday, we found him. He very ably led our group of straggling homeschooling families all throughout his fields and then treated us to hamburgers made from Polyface pork and beef.

We loaded our plates with the other potluck provisions (and our contributions of seafoam salad and Andrea's chocolate cherry cake), watched the boys fight each other with sticks found on the massive wood pile, and welcomed children to our pile as they shyly asked about the babies ("two of them?" "You have TWO sets of two of them??").

It was yummy, the day was cool and delightful, and the farm was perfect. I've already made plans to take visitors there ... they have "an open door policy.  Anyone may come anytime Monday through Saturday to see anything anywhere" (from their website).

And the first visitor we plan to take is Ethan's mom. He just picked her up from the airport, which gives me two hours before they get here.

Ahem. I'd best get back to work. We sure are ready to have her, but the house isn't! (Will it work if I park the vacuum in the middle of the kitchen floor, take a nap on the couch, and pop up to say, "I was just in the middle of cleaning!" when they arrive?)

Gideon and Salem meeting a friend

Joel Salatin describing how different animals graze

Gideon waiting for some munchies

Jon-Jon and the chickens

"Here, chicky-chicky!"

Some of them on the hayride

(There is a video embedded in this post. Email subscribers may have to click over.)

Friday, October 1, 2010

Stick Figure Logic:The Truth about Capitalism

I impress myself when I say that I know the guy who put this together. And the woman who drew the face of Bill Gates (and also happens to be married to the guy who put this together)? We change diapers and sway babies in the same church nursery. As our friend (and co-diaper changer/baby swayer) Aimee said, "Bask in the creativity and computer know how."

(There is a video embedded in this post. E-mail subscribers may have to click over.)

Great job, Joel and Melissa! I have no idea how you do it, but you do it well!

Now if only we could convert Glenn Beck...

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