Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Doesn't your mother feed you?

When asked the above question (in jest, by our good friend), MrC answered:

"Not really.  Sometimes we have to sing to the refrigerator, and then other times we have to go steal money from their wallets to go buy food."

We had been helping with blueberry patch clean up, and the kids were all hungry. ;o)  But still . .  what a ham he is. lol  I think he has been reading Anna's blog . . . 

Monday, March 30, 2009

My Gardening Trinity

In commenting at a friend's blog tonight, I realized I had written an entire blog post, and thought I'd widen my audience a bit.  (I'm all for efficiency, especially with blogging time so scarce right now.)  I've been spending a lot of my precious "project" time outside this last week, and am this week scurrying around getting ready for family visits and various schtuff.

Here are my top three favorite gardening how-to books, in ascending order:

Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long by Eliot Coleman.  Honestly my favorite book on not only extending your season, but making it possible to eat from it year round, in the north, without supplemental heat.  I love Coleman's approach to gardening, and to solving the problem of how to have nourishing, nutrient-rich food even in the dead of Maine's winter.

The Garden Primer: Second Edition by Barbara Damrosch has a wealth of good general information on gardening practices, planning, and care.  I'm going to plant a shrub border like the ones she details in here some day . . .  Barbara shares her experience of years in landscape work, while keeping away from the toxic chemical fertilizers, et al, that are proving to be so unhealthy for both plants and people.  (I grew up on a modern farm--complete with herbicides, pesticides, and fertilizers galore.  I know that of which I speak.)

And my favorite book ever on vegetable gardening is Great Garden Companions: A Companion-Planting System for a Beautiful, Chemical-Free Vegetable Garden by Sally Jean Cunningham. (I saved the best for last.) She talks a lot about the needs for edible plants, what keeps them happy, and how to keep your garden as a whole healthy. (And, since she keeps chemical-free gardening at the forefront, it's highly self-reliant, as well.)  Beautiful photography, open and accessible format, and to the point.  There are garden plans, troubleshooting guides, and loads more.  I <3>

So what are your favorite gardening books and websites?  Do tell!

PC Diagnosis

A quotable quote, from my cousin-in-law, Eeden:

"Upon analysis, I have determined that your computer's problem is due to a loose screw between the chair and the keyboard."

Have a great Monday!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

One Trillion

(There. Again. Photos should appear now.  ;o)

This little gem appeared in my inbox today.  What a reality check.  And to think that more than seven trillion dollars have already been printed and handed out to banks already!  Oh boy.  Banana Republic ain't just a stop at the mall anymore.

*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*

What Does one TRILLION dollars look like? 
All this talk about "stimulus packages" and "bailouts"...

A billion dollars...

A hundred billion dollars...

Eight hundred billion dollars...

One TRILLION dollars...

What does that look like? I mean, these various numbers are tossed around like so many doggie treats.  

Stay with me ... to get a sense of what a trillion dollars looks like.

Take it slowly....

We'll start with a $100 dollar bill. Currently the largest U.S. denomination in general circulation. Most everyone has seen them; slightly fewer have owned them. Guaranteed to make friends wherever they go.


A packet of one hundred $100 bills is less than 1/2" thick and contains $10,000. Fits in your pocket easily and is more than enough for a week or two of shamefully decadent fun.


Believe it or not, this next little pile is $1 million dollars (100 packets of $10,000). You could stuff that into a grocery bag and walk around with it.


While a measly $1 million looked a little unimpressive, $100 million is a little more respectable. It fits neatly on a standard pallet...


And $1 BILLION dollars... now we're really getting somewhere...


Next we'll look at ONE TRILLION dollars. This is that number we've been hearing about so much. What is a trillion dollars? Well, it's a million million. It's a thousand billion. It's a one followed by 12 zeros.

You ready for this?

It's pretty surprising.

Go ahead...

Scroll down...

Ladies and gentlemen... I give you $1 trillion dollars...


(And notice those pallets are double stacked and how small the man looks.)

So the next time you hear someone toss around the phrase "trillion dollars"... that's what they're talking about.

Make sure you pass this on so everyone can see how much our government is really spending!!   

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Drum Roll, Please

I'm definitely late to the party.   

I'm sharing anyway.  

I just realized I could schedule housework.  Ahead of time.  On. My. Calendar.  Woah. 

Let's role play, to illustrate the point:

Good Friend Calls: Hi, Annalea!  Hey, I want to get together and take our kids to PlayLand some morning.  When's good for you?

Me: Hmmmm . . . lemme see.  (I look at my calendar for the next week, and see that I've got Monday down for laundry and an activity at home with the kids, playgroup the next morning, Wednesday morning for sorting and purging old kids' clothes, Thursday for family pictures, Friday morning is the children's museum, and the entire Saturday devoted to hacking away at the garage so I can manage to park the van in there before the next rainy season starts.)  "How about a week from Tuesday?" I respond.

Good Friend: Sounds great!  Ten o' clock good for you?

Me:  Yep.  See you then!

Totally obvious.  But oh, so useful!  I think I can see great things happening around here . . . 

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Hej Då!

("Hej Då!" is a commonly used "good bye" in Sweeden, and translates more literally to "Hello, then!".)

Today the munchkins and I ventured forth once again to the magical blue and yellow box of treasures: IKEA Portland.



Armed with the knowledge that it's the "ok" button on the phone that actually saves the photos I take, I brought back not only treasures to warm my home and family, but photographic evidence of our journey.

Witness . . . the girls being sweet and cooperative:



In an uncharacteristic fit of conformity, MissE (now 7--yikes!) agreed to wear a hair clip that matched LilMissL's.  I think they looked adorable . . . and at least there's tenacious evidence (those clips don't. move. ever.) that I did, at one point this morning, brush and otherwise groom their hair!

The boys being . . . um . . . boys:


(Don't you love CS's french fry glamour pose?  And I'm so thankful the Anderman's tongue is mostly in his mouth!)  Their heads were carefully groomed with a wet comb before leaving, as well . . . but it's hard to convince them to wear rhinestone-studded barrettes to prove it.

And the Baby bustin' out his favorite new move . . . The Uber-Nab:



The kid is seriously fast with those fingers.  If you get your head too close, it's game over until he decides to let go. ;o)

Overall, we had a very successful time.  We came away with nearly everything we went to fetch (minus an attractive laundry-sorter deal for the family's dirty duds), a couple of things I didn't have on the list (Hello, Persian carpet in As-Is!  Woot!), and another adventure under our belts.  Honestly, I love taking my kids to Ikea with me.  It's such a family-friendly place (love the baby care room, with a changing table, nursing chair, and toys for the kids!), the munchkins love looking at all of the displays, getting to try out the model living spaces, and play in the children's area.  I love all of the really great homewares (I'm a new duvet/cover convert . . . the older boys each scored a set today, and they love the poufy, squishy softness to snuggle under), I know the store well enough now to not be completely overwhelmed after an hour, and I get a lot of compliments from other Ikea shoppers on my family.  (What mother doesn't simply eat that up?)

(Honest . . . this really isn't bragging . . . I'm just so happy to see that some of the pain and hard word has paid off!)  Today was an all-time record for the number of people who stopped to talk to me for a minute or two about the spectacle of one mother with five children . . . in a public space.  

There was a gentleman about the same age as my dad (mid-50's) who came within about six feet of our table and addressed me, his face steadily flushing as he spoke with an admirably-controlled, quaking voice: "Ma'am, I would like to compliment you on the demeanor of your children."  I thanked him wholeheartedly, appreciating deeply that he was impressed enough to brave coming over to say something.  He was clearly very shy, and retreated as soon as my "Thank You" was spoken. 

Then there was the jovial man who sidled up to me and said: "Are these all yours, girl?!?"  When I affirmed it, he laughed and said "Heavens!"  We chatted for a few seconds, as he grinningly watched the kids arranging the dishes and lunch ephemera on the table.  Then looking me in the eye he asked "You're not Mormon, are you?"  I laughed again, confessing, and he responded with "Good for you!" before smiling and heading off to the lunch line, shaking his head a few times as he went.  

There was the dark-haired grandmother at the very end of our adventure, sitting at the table next to us in the cafe near the exit, who talked back and forth a bit about children and families.  It was clear, after a few exchanges, that she loved children . . . she and her husband had wanted six, had tried to get them here, but had lost babies 2, 4 & 6.  They raised three.  We spoke of what we thought her three angels were doing, and how they spent their time waiting for her to join them.  She was so warm and congratulatory, and visibly joyed by my life choices.  I need to plant her firmly in my mind, to hear her voice and see her smiling eyes on days when things overwhelm me, despite my mighty struggle.

In the interest of full disclosure: they weren't perfect.  There aren't old heads on those young shoulders, to paraphrase E. Nesbit.  CS ran MissE down in the couch section, trapping one of her legs under the stroller cart and eliciting quite the sobbing episode, until MissE was safely ensconsed in the second stroller to rest her mortally injured (and visibly unscathed) leg.  LilMissL was kind enough to take a turn walking without too much fanfare.  

LilMissL had a tearful breakdown while I tried to get everyone's orders straight in the lunch line.  (She was the only one of the kids who wanted pasta instead of mashed potatoes, and thought she wasn't going to be heard.)  

The Baby sobbed broken-heartedly when I disappeared into a batthroom stall (he was in a stroller cart, with the older children, in the bathroom proper).  

And there was complaining and moaning at various times.  Plenty of "Mom, can we get _____???" answered with a plain and quiet "No."  Our fair share of exclamations and excited voices.  And a few social goofs.  They are kids, after all. ;o)

And now that full disclosure has been made, can I just say that seeing people's positive reactions made my day?  I know that people watch me when I'm out with the kids.  Five children, three or four of which are in a straggling line behind me (depending on how many I've got in the cart), is somewhat uncommon 'round these parts. ;o)  Since moving to Oregon I've felt very much like an activist.  People overwhelmed with their child (or two or three) see me with mine.  People who haven't yet started a family get a glimpse into what's possible, instead of the more common and disturbing scenes.

Today, while out with a brood of five:
  • I was smiling.  
  • I was reasonably well-groomed.  (No model, but I'm clean and brushed, and usually have on a smile and mascara!)  
  • My children were not a hindrance (well, not much of one), or a spectacle, or a burden, or usually an inconvenience to those around them.  (We're working on the whole "pay attention so you aren't in the way of others" concept still.)  
They're somewhat shy, but at the same time unafraid, around adults.  This is their reality--their commonplace.  Being out with mom, in the "real world" (to borrow a tired school phrase), is part of their lives.  I'm careful to make sure their physical needs are met; we don't go out at nap time, I make sure they're fed and watered regularly while we're out, we make potty stops, I talk with them and we explore together wherever we are so they're not completely bored, etc.  If I mess up on any one of those, there are highly visible (and audible) repercussions.  (I've been a quick study on that lesson. ;o)

There are lactivists . . . and various types of rights activists . . . there are missionaries and Salvation Army bell ringers . . . people that stand out because they're serving a different purpose than the rest of us.  

That's how I felt today.  We stood out.

Today I finally realized that while only six people stopped to say something to me, there were in all likelihood far more than that who took notice, who watched, who wondered.  I was honestly happy to be there with my children, and I know it showed.

I've never been one to accept the status quo when it didn't match my priorities . . . or to accept the cultural myths that support the more broken facets of society.  Showing random strangers that children are complete individuals, entirely capable of handling themselves well in public places and that women can be capable of true happiness in motherhood was highly satisfying to me today.  I know those concepts are generally accepted as possible--but few in the adult world have ever seen hard evidence.  I wonder if other participants in social movements have felt the same on a good day?

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Closeness Without Proximity.

Thanks so much, everyone, for your great comments on my previous post.  I've been pondering over the things said, and they'll show up again in the very near future, as I offer my thoughts on them.

lifeinyonder's concerns are prescient today, as there are so many families in which both parents have chosen to work.  She said:

"And I congratulate you for having the possibility to stay at home and spend so much time with your children! It must be lovely! I hope I too manage to spend much time together with my kids or spend time with them in a way that ties my children to me so that they don't disapear into adulthood. Wonder how one can do that even if one can't be a stay at home mom...? "

While the path I've chosen to stay close to my children is keeping them physically close to me for as long as is healthy for them, there are many ways to stay close to  your children, making lasting and strong relationships with them, if they attend school or otherwise are not physically close to you.

Those ways sound trite, but they work.  With Vern gone to a traditional job five days a week now, we've learned firsthand the value of these.

Make the most of the time you have.

Don't let precious minutes slip by, distracted by things that aren't going to matter tomorrow, or by things you won't remember in a few days.  Focus on the things that are truly important . . . everything else needs to be left by the wayside.  Computers, TV, the internet, and the like are all excluded from our family time.  We play games together (chess is a current favorite, even for our 5yo son), read aloud, do chores together, and otherwise live our lives in concert with one another, involving the children in our tasks, and giving of ourselves in theirs.  I remember knowing families, growing up, whose children were such good friends with their parents.  I longed for that . . . for while my mom is now one of my absolute best friends, I didn't feel nearly as close to her as I wanted to while growing up at home.  It never occurred to me to involve myself in her tasks, as she had always done them alone, and my chores were my own responsibility.  There was no community in housework, something which I try very hard in my own home to foster.  (Foster community, not the lack of it. ;o)

Choose to be happy.

Happiness, love, and kindness are a choice.  Emotions are so strange that way.  They can take us by surprise, as if possessing a life of their own . . . and yet, actions we choose can evoke them, strengthen them, and make them habitual.  (Habitual joy is still joy!)  Stop, breathe deeply, then smile when things get tough.  Calm your voice and clasp your hands when frustration overtakes you.  Everyone loses it to one degree or another from time to time.  Focus on improving the distance between parental meltdowns, on providing yourself space or your own time out when you need to calm down before handling something.  I've recently discovered the incredible value of asking for space when I'm overloaded . . . and my children have caught on with alacrity.  They love it when I can respond to them with patience, and are willing to work with me in order to get it. ;o)

Make your children's lives special.

Show them you are thinking of them, are aware of them, and want to make them happy.  That means allowing them to do things for themselves, as well as providing selfless service.  Notes in lunch boxes, doing fun things together, special surprises of your child's favorite something-or-other . . . whether it's a decoration of their favorite color, or something else.  I've noticed that handmade things are cherished by children, especially as they grow older.  Things that show you've given a gift of self, while children may not think much of it today, will stay with them over time, and coalesce into part of their impression of you.  Be the person you want your children to remember.

And now, speaking of children, I need to go put a couple down for naps. :o)

Thanks so much for reading!!!