Saturday, January 24, 2009


Yesterday, after giving Ben (7) and Abe (3) haircuts and marveling at the quietness of our new clippers, we put Jonathan (7 mos.) to bed for a nap and the rest of us bundled up to head outside.


This bundling required the usual: snowsuits for the littles, snowpants for the olders, an old pair of jeans pulled over regular pants for me, and coats, snow boots, hats, and extra mittens for all. And it was still cold.


We trudged up the side hill with our newly-found sleds. These sleds are very valuable to us . . . after weeks of visiting every store that could possibly carry sleds, the children had been sledding on cardboard boxes covered in trash bags. We periodically checked the stores, only to be told, “We’ve been sold out… not sure if we’re getting more” over and over. It wasn’t until we ducked into a CVS (of all places!) for some eye drops that Ethan spotted some bright red plastic sleds for sale by the counter.


Where was I? Oh, yes, trudging up the hill. The children were excited. I was tired, exhausted from trying to locate everyone’s gloves and pull snow boots on and resolve issues of hats that weren’t aesthetically pleasing to their wearers. The children made it outside and down the hill once before I got out there. Ethan watched from his study and called to tell me it was a picture moment, everyone smiling broadly as they swished down together. I mumbled something about not having batteries in the camera, he said something like “all right, crabby cakes,” and I located my old jeans and wondered how much longer I had before Jon woke up and how many other things I could be doing instead.


But I went. One foot went in front of the other, and I was at the top of the hill with the children. I first took Miriam (3) and Eden (2) down and was amazed at the amount of dexterity it takes to sled. Not only do you have to avoid all boulders and trees, there’s also Papa’s study at the bottom of the hill and a sharp drop-off down to the road on the left. Ben and Lily (5) navigated this with ease, even with a sibling on each sled, but it took my entire attention to turn the sled and dig my heels in at the appropriate time. Then, when the twins decided they wanted to go down by themselves, I had to position myself in a likely spot and throw my body at them to stop them.


Sledding is not for amateurs. Or, perhaps more accurately, sledding is only for amateurs.


Anyway, no one complained about having to walk back up the hill. The children trickled back inside, one by one, as the cold eventually got to them. Abraham was the last, and he only went in because his hand was firmly grasped in mine and it was time for lunch.


Ethan fixed lunch (!!!) and the children napped hard and long.



Thursday, January 22, 2009

Happy Birthday, Eden

Today our little Edee, with hair down to her waist, turned two. It didn't seem like she should be turning two. Three, maybe. But two? You mean last year she was only one, and the year before she barely was?


This little girl, who proudly puts on her own boots and coat (upside down, admittedly), celebrated her birthday with the proper amount of indignation at her siblings' secretive behavior as they wrapped her gifts behind closed doors. We had taken them to Goodwill so everyone could have a chance to pick presents. I was pleasantly surprised that only one toy was chosen...a Baby Annabell doll that she had heard crying and instantly wanted to mother. Other gifts included a set of sparkly necklaces, a felt purse with hearts on it (how handy to have Valentines' so close by!), and a green hooded towel with the eyes and feet of a frog.


Ben (7) made her a card that said, "To my loveable sister Eden: You are now two years old, and what a pretty one too." We think he enjoyed the homonymnal "one, two" of it.


Dinner was baked salmon (I do the foil tent method, 15 minutes at 425 -- comes out perfectly every time) with mashed yams. To keep them from prematurely scarfing everything down before the cake was ready, the children were given pretzel sticks to dip into their spinach dip and then catch goldfish crackers -- a snack I MUST remember for those times I need snacktime to take a little longer in the consuming than it does in the preparing.


Cake was a family tradition...german chocolate upside down cake. I tried to be a maverick and find some sort of cute cupcakey thing I could make with the ingredients we had at hand...but the ... ahem ... children (yes, only the children, never the adults no huh-uh) were so disappointed I gave up and we ran out to get the proper ingredients. And I must say, if you're going to have a cake every birthday, this is the cake to have.


After we finished supper, Edee opened her presents with barely controlled delight. I don't know that she was any more excited than any of her siblings, though. It was a pretty hyper event..


And so our little Eden Quinn Mable Allison turned two. The things I want to remember about her at this stage: her "What are you makin'?" said with a Germanic harshness, the way she shrugs when she is being shy or unsure, her extremely pudgy dimpled knees, her "I Yuv You"s, so constant at the grocery store, her answer "Yep!" to almost every question, her munchkin nose scrunching up when you ask to see her teeth, the way her cheeks succumb to gravity when she sleeps in her carseat.


I love you, little one. May our God draw you closer to Himself this year. You are a blessing indeed.


Saturday, January 17, 2009

Settling In

Let's see. This was a monumental week. We finally got our Internet connected (for real!) and a home phone number (which reminds me, I need to give that to people). We purchased a wireless router so that Ethan can have access to the Internet in his study (a room off of the detached garage). We mailed off two baker's dozens of my favorite chocolate chip cookies to two male church members who had birthdays, and I knitted up a dishcloth for the one female with a birthday this week.


And we had people over.


This was the most monumental of all. This meant all partially opened boxes, floors full of clothing, and tables full of remnants of many half-eaten meals had to be emptied, put away, and cleaned.


One of our goals is to have people over regularly. In the past, this has been a challenge because of family circumstances (morning sickness, new baby, Ethan's night classes), housing arrangements, and/or general fatigue. But no more! (Well, the fatigue lingers, but not as an excuse. Just as a lifestyle.)


So we scurryfunged and ran around the house. Some of us unscurryfunged and ran into those of us who were scurryfunging. But somehow, it got done.


And now we have a home. It's no longer just walls and doors and windows with all of our junk *somewhere*. It is an organized, defined living space. (But if you want to chance the schoolroom/cat room/I-don't-know-what-that-is-just-put-it-in-there room, that's on you.)


Yes, it needs the constant pick-up, and I would be embarrassed if I didn't have ten minutes' heads-up before a neighbor dropped in. But it's only ten minutes from respectable, not ten (or more) hours, like it was before.


We're still waiting to run into the perfect large inexpensive kitchen table and chairs, so our dining room is a little .. . . Montessori-like (sewing table for the adults, child-sized craft tables and chairs for the children).


And there are Christmas presents on the mantle, awaiting boxes, to be mailed to various family members in various states.


But aaaah, the peacefulness of a place to put your feet up that doesn't involve rearranging hair things, dog bones, and cookbooks that used to occupy the coffee table.


Doesn't everyone use his coffee table to put his feet up?



Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Toddlers Putting on Own Coats

I love this one. One of my friends taught my kids this, and I unashamedly show this off whenever I can.


When you have to bundle 6 kids, you LOVE it when they can do it themselves. Come to think of it, I don't know of any parents of only children (parents of only CHILDREN? Something's wonky with that sentence...) that beg their child to please stop dressing himself so Mommy can do it.


So here's the Montessori way to put on your own coat when your arms are too short to do it the conventional way:


1) Lay the coat on the floor. The back of the coat should be on the floor, with the opening facing up.


2) Stand by the hood. (The coat will look upside-down to you.)


3) Stick your arms in the arm holes (yes, even though it looks upside-down).


4) Now swing your arms up and FLIP! it over your head!


At the beginning, you will have to throw the coat down for them and remind them where to stand (by the hood!). But eventually, they can throw their own coats on the floor. All by themselves.


For more ideas, see Mother Hen's website.

Almond Joy Pancakes

Often, when Ethan's away for the evening, we'll make breakfast for dinner. It's not his favorite thing. He wants something meaty and substantial that will reward him for his hard mental and physical work . . . figuring out Sunday School lessons, shoveling the driveway, searching endless hours for the lone van key.


At the end of my day, when I'm faced with six tired children who skipped naps due to the hopeful thought, "We have to be ready to go to the store as soon as we find that van key!". . . I, too, need something substantial.


Like chocolate.


So as soon as Ethan left tonight for his meeting, we whipped these up. They were born more out of desperation (no maple syrup? no vanilla pudding?) than inspiration, but they hit the spot.


Make your usual pancake recipe. After you dollup the batter onto the griddle or pan, sprinkle a few chocolate chips and slivered (or chopped, or half-heartedly banged) almonds onto each pancake. Flip when they start bubbling.


Top with coconut syrup.


Coconut Syrup:

1 c. sugar

1/2 c. water

2 T. butter

2 t. coconut extract


Boil sugar, water, and butter for five minutes. Remove from heat. Stir in coconut extract.


And enjoy. This is the time to know nothing of the words "treadmill," "heart attack," or "waistline."


"Parlez-vous chocolat?"



Monday, January 12, 2009


Aaaah. We are here. Home. It hasn't quite hit me that on the 20th, we will have been here a month.


We arrived last month, our family, my mother-in-law, and my brother. It was 25 BELOW zero. Are you kidding me? I didn't even know things could LIVE in temperatures below zero.


All right, so I knew they could live. Just not longer than five minutes.


We met our new church family, celebrated Christmas (which included a church get-together and sermon at a family's house on Christmas Day -- which I loved!!), celebrated a new dog (you can see him here), and said goodbye to my brother and mother-in-law.


And then it was just us. Us here in Montana City, trying to figure out Helena and church and life in the cold and who we are ... just us ... without former friends and family close by.


And I have already been introduced to things I knew nothing of beforehand -- studded tires, shoveling snow, block heaters (you have to plug your CAR in?), shoveling snow, an obedient dog, shoveling snow, crunchy nose hairs (that's how you know it's below zero when you're not near a thermometer), shoveling snow, snow boots with velvet church dresses, and, well, you know...


I have to say that I do love it here. Sometimes I forget that we are here indefinitely -- that THIS is HOME. Sometimes there's this odd feeling when I remember that we are not just on vacation, that we will not be traveling back to Virginia in the next few days. And that's a mixed feeling: hard when I remember that I can't just drop into Mom and Dad's house (and drop a few kids off!) and exhilarating when I look at the incredible views and think, "WOW. I LIVE HERE!!"


I do hope to post more regularly, now that we're settled and the Internet is finally Really Connected (as opposed to the plenty of False Starts we've had in the past few weeks!).


But. We're here. Home. And it's very, very good.



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