Saturday, May 28, 2011

Stealing Rose Bushes

Some times I have a moment with a friend that reminds me of Lucy and Ethel or Thelma and Louise. This was one of those moments. Its such a small moment too - just 45 minutes. Nothing crazy or illegal. But such a perfect example of our friendship.

Months and months and months ago I mentioned to my friend that I wanted 'real' rosebushes in my yard. Not those fake iceberg roses you see all over town. She mentioned that she wanted the iceberg ones instead of her real ones. So I told her I would take her roses when it came time to dig them up.

Fast forward a few months and she send me an email. "Found your roses. They are in Glendale. They are free. I am picking you up at 7:45 am. I will dig them up but you have to come along for moral support.". Its been weeks since I have gotten a good night sleep and I was thoroughly looking forward to staying in bed until 9 am on Saturday. Because it would be the last day for another several weeks that I would be able to sleep in. Plus I was worried about having to water the newly transplanted roses.

But I got up, had some breakfast and had breakfast for my friend. We hopped in the car at 7:45 leaving all the kids home with Caskey (something he wasn't too thrilled about either). We descended on this home that had a dozen or more mature rose bushes. We weren't the only ones there with shovels digging up rose bushes. We had our gloves, clippers and box to put them in. In just a few minutes we left with 5 rose bushes. At home we were just as lightening fast. We dug 5 small holes, planted them and watered them. My friend was gone an hour after she arrived. She is like a ninja-gardener. Lightening fast and effective.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Almost 7 months

And I want it to slow down. Its hard to believe that just about a month ago Eleanor was blossoming all in one day. We went for her 6 month well-check and the doctor raised an eyebrow about the fact that Eleanor hadn't rolled over yet or started blowing raspberries. I went to lunch with my good friend after the appointment and as we sat there chatting about the absence of raspberries, Ellie went to town. She has continued to blow raspberries every day since, especially when I am feeding her, resulting in a shower of sweet potatoes or pureed peas.

That night I put her to bed on her back. (I'm still in awe that I can lay her in her crib awake and she falls asleep on her own. None of the other 4 kids did that.) A few hours later for her next feeding she was pretty mad to wake up and find herself on her tummy. Ever since then she rolls onto her belly every night to sleep, but can't figure out how to get onto her back when she wakes back up.

But now she has an opinion. I gave her a new toy and she wants to stand up and play with it. She gripes at me when I am eating my food - because I should be sharing with her. She has started jabbering at me now. It sounds a lot like she is telling me what to do and how to do it. She is da-da-da-ing and na-na-na-ing. Next will be ma-ma-ma, I hope.

I long for the time when she was 4 months old and could sleep anywhere. I loved that she was an accessory and a play thing for me to dress up and pose. But that's all over now. I find myself planning to be home for her nap time (at least most days) and wiping the stickiness off of her after meal time. She has even managed to yank her bows off her head, but only when she is tired or mad. I see the days of party dresses and big bows and sweet-smelling baby disappearing quickly. In its place will be a rough and tumble toddler; taking after her older brothers. At least she will still wear the party dresses for pictures, right?

Friday, May 13, 2011

"You Should Teach Parenting Classes"

William's behaviors are very similar to Lainy Ann's behaviors when she was 4 years old. Rather than waiting until he is in 3rd grade and coing to this emergent decision to get him evaluated, we decided to start with a baseline evaluation through the school district.

The evaluation process could not have gone better. Caskey was able to take the day off of work and be present at the meeting. He was a valuable addition to the interview process. We told the team about William's impulsive behaviors, tantrums and how he still puts things in his mouth. We talked about his love of deep pressure (we call them 'squishy hugs') and how he expresses his love and frustration through punching and rough housing. In addition he still has a minor stutter when easily excited.

William charmed the pants off of all the evaluators. He followed directions, flashed his smile and was polite. Eleanor was a hit as well. It was a pleasant process all around. The psychologist, speech pathologist and nurse said things like, "what a joy", "so smart", and "thank you for letting us meet him". Although we still had 2 weeks until the formal results were back I had a feeling what it would reveal.

In the interim the psychologist observed WIlliam at school to see how he interacted with his peers and behaved in the classroom. Reading the summary of the classroom observation was fascinating. It was great to have access to a 3rd party's perspective. In the evaluation she wrote about how William does well in school and with only minor redirection he is able to stay on task, that he prefers to stand while completing his work, and even though he gets distracted during circle time he is able to stay seated.

In all it was a positive evaluation. We were told that William is above average in almost all areas. In the one area (peer interaction) where he is below age level, he was still within the normal range. We were told to continue to challenge him and not let him slip through the crack because he is intelligent. We started talking about the other children and our family dynamic and parenting choices when one of the evaluators says, "You should really teach parenting classes." We were so taken aback. I don't think there is anything special about us as parents. We simply want each one of our children to be the best person they can be to their abilities. We have also sworn that each child should have the advantages and lifestyle they would have if they were from a smaller family. We never want to say that we can't do something because of our family size. So, yes, that's why we requested an evaluation on our otherwise normal son. Although he is average we want all the tools available to us so he can be the best William he can be.

I'm sure they were talking about the crazy mom who is wasting tax payer money once we left. But they did thank us for introducing William to them. They absolutely adored him. We do too.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Good Intentions

I was that mom at the Ash Wednesday Mass this year. My 2 year old decided to run down the aisle of the church in his jammies and Elmo slippers. Twice. *sigh*

We decided not to enroll our children in Catholic school, because of that we take their Catholic education very seriously. We are sure to spend the Lenten and Advent season doing weekly activities. Now that Lainy Ann receives communion I think its even more important to continue her education. We are sure to attend weekly Mass where she participates fully. Where the other children are allowed to color and ignore the homily she, and now Connor, are required to listen or sometimes attend Children's Liturgy.

During the Lenten season I do my best to make sure we remember the importance of the 40 days of Lent, fast, and attend all of the Holy Days. The problem with that is most of the Masses are at dinnertime or later during the week. But I figure its important for them to sacrifice, as Jesus did for us, and attend a few late night Masses a year.

On Ash Wednesday I fed the children, packed a bag of activities, bathed and put the little ones in jammies, put on the baby carrier and prepared to take 5 children to evening Ash Wednesday Mass, at bedtime. Wow. I'm just tired typing all of that out. What on earth possessed me to undertake such a task.

Although my mom and Tom were also at the Mass, they were sitting near the reading kids helping them with the Mass and following along in the hymnal which leaves me with the 3 youngest kids. Alexander figured that out pretty quickly and kept easing out of the pew. The first time he took off down the aisle another parishoner saw him and grabbed him. Thank goodness. The second time I wasn't so lucky. He remembered the well-meaning parishoner and weaved away from her with the ease of a football player. Then he headed down the middle aisle of the church towards the alter. Fabulous. Because it wasn't bad enough that half of the church had seen him running down the aisle in his Elmo slippers, he is ensuring that everyone gets to see him. To add to the comedy of the situation I am running after him with Eleanor strapped to my chest.

I was mortified. Mortified. Its bad enough that we make a commotion just existing in the church. But the chasing up and down the aisle . . . . just the icing on the cake. Fortunately I got a lot of sympathetic looks as I expressed my apologies after church. I know Alexander isn't getting a whole lot out of church at this age, but its important to us that Lainy Ann and Connor are learning about their faith. I guess that means that some days during Mass I will be a little mortified.

Breakfast: Kid Style

Mother's Day!

Happiness is being surprised with breakfast in bed of raisin toast (garnished with whipped cream and Reeses Pieces), a bran muffin (also garnished with whipped cream and Reeses Pieces) and a bowl of, you guessed it, whipped cream and Reeses Pieces and fruit flavored mentos.

This may have been my favorite Mother's Day yet. Even better than the year I got a new laptop, or the year Caskey got up with the kids and took them to the park and let me sleep until 10 am, or last year when I got my handprint canvas. Because this year my kids were in charge. Lainy Ann and Connor spent the week counting money, planning trips to the store and then finally on Sunday morning, they rallied the troops and made me breakfast in bed. They surprised us both since Caskey was still sleeping too.

I was attacked in bed with kisses and hugs and paper cards and homemade picture frames. Breakfast was a real, um . . . surprise as well. They found all their own favorite foods and made them into breakfast for me. Fortunately, they were also willing to help me eat it all up!

I am really enjoying this next stage of kid-dom. I love that they are more in-charge of life, more responsible. I am really enjoying watching them become their own person.

In Pursuit of Cleanliness

I am impatient. I prefer to spend my time relaxing, going on adventures or having fun. So when we bought a new dishwasher six years ago I bought the most expensive one on the market. The one that had the commercial of a lady putting an entire cake in the dishwasher and the glass dish coming out clean. I didn't want to pre-wash my dishes or even rinse them. I have been known to put a spoon of caked on peanut butter in the dishwasher and I expect it to come out sparkling.

As time wore on I had problems with my dishwasher. They were so time consuming and traumatic that I wrote about them in a post titled "Sears". We spent nearly $400, the price of a new dishwasher. Still nothing worked. I blamed the hard water in our area. The repairman told me I was "using my dishwasher too much". It was only 4 years old. We broke down and finally bought a new 'cheap' dishwasher that still ended up costing $600.

My new dishwasher worked great for 6 months and then the same things started happening; caked on food, grainy left behind bits, filmy glassware, and white spots on all my dishes and pots. It was gross. I would hand wash the glasses, but nothing would take off the white residue on my dishes. I hand soaked, used vinegar, used CLR, everything. I started shopping around for new dishes or maybe a new dishwasher - just 15 months old.

Caskey did tons of research and discovered a dirty (pun intended) little secret. The government has banned phosphates from all detergents as of July 2010. Quietly. Households across the country (Europe too) are finding themselves with a need for a new dishwasher, dishes or having to run dishes through 2 cycles or even hand wash dishes. Its a ridiculous waste of time and money.

Remember the old Calgon commercial that showed food falling off plates and glasses left gleaming at the end of a wash? That was phosphorous at work.

It is still a must in commercial establishments like restaurants and hotels. But 17 states have already banned the product for consumers, causing most all makers of the detergent to remove it from their products, which vastly degraded their value. The detergent makers saw the writing on the wall and this time decided to get out in front of the regulatory machine, anticipating a federal ban before it actually takes place.

Most consumers are clueless as to how sometime in the last year, their dishwashers stopped working properly. They call in the repairman, who fiddles with things and announces a fix. But it is not fixed. The glasses are gritty and the plates often need to be rinsed again after washing. Many households have bought new machines or resorted to just running the dishes through twice.

The creation of phosphorous-free detergent is the real reason. As Jonathan Last explains in the Weekly Standard, the antiphosphate frenzy began in Washington State, which was attempting to comply with a Clean Air Act mandate that a certain river be swimmable and fishable. This was a problem because tests found inordinate amounts of phosphate in the river. As part of the effort to comply, the state banned phosphates from detergents. That was in 2008, but the way politics works these days, the banning spread to state after state — again with the backing of federal law

Detergent makers are getting better at making non-phosporous detergent. But its slow going.

Consumer Reports tested 24 low- or no-phosphate dish detergents and found four Recommended products. Although none equaled the excellent (but now discontinued) product that topped CR’s Ratings in August 2009, seven were Very Good.

The real answer is adding TSP to your dishwasher load. I add 1/2 tsp of TSP to every load, along with my Cascade and Jet Dry rinsing agent. My dishes now come out squeaky clean and my glasses are crystal clear. It even repaired those pots that had white spots all over them. Something that hand washing was not able to fix. TSP is a miracle component.

I am going to start using TSP on my clothes this week and see if it makes a difference. I have seriously felt like I was failing as a wife as I see yellowed and stained clothes. Something that never happened when my mom was in charge of laundry.

My own enlightenment on this issue came within the last year. Like millions of others, I had forgotten what a clean dish looked like. Dish-washing soaps, with no big announcement, eliminated phosphate from their formulas under pressure from the EPA and laws from state governments that banned them. The idea was to help the fish in their oxygen competition with algae (even though the household contribution to algae creation is negligible, and the scientific evidence on the issue of algae's effect on fish runs in all directions).

The main issue here is that Americans (Europeans too) are having their living standards systematically degraded by regulators who apparently hate our modern conveniences like dishwashers and want to drive us ever more into an impoverished state of nature.

And don't tell me that phosphate-free dish soap works just as well. It's a laughable claim. If you buy some phosphate and add a tablespoon to the load, you enter a new world once the washer is finished. Things are actually clean like you might remember from childhood. The glasses gleam, the plates squeak, and there is no oily film on all your dishes. You don't have to buy new dishes and you don't need a new washer. You only need to add back what the regulators took out. You don't need Consumer Reports. The difference is perfectly obvious, and anyone who claims otherwise is insulting our intelligence.

The sales of new home appliances have soared over the last 12 months, according to industry reports. The data are not broken down by type, but I'm willing to bet that quite a few dishwashers have been sold to unsuspecting customers who had no idea that the real problem was with the detergents, not the machines. Hardly anyone I have spoken to has understood this problem, but all confirmed the fact that their dishes are not getting clean.

Getting even less attention was this ban on TSP in laundry soap that took place in the early 1990s, apparently codified in a 1993 law. The idea, or the excuse, was to stop the increased growth of algae in rivers and lakes (phosphate is a fertilizer too), even though there are other ways to filter phosphate, home use contributes virtually nothing to the alleged problem, and there is no solid evidence that plant growth in rivers and lakes is a harm at all.

DISCLAIMER: I am all for natural non chemical things. We buy organic, no HFCS in this house. But when I wasn't using TSP we were ingesting white filmy stuff off of our dishes. And all the research I have found has shown that TSP isolate water molecules or something like that, rather than adding chemicals. In addition the phosphate pollution comes from commercial pesticide and fertilizer use - farms. Not homes where we want clean clothes and clean dishes.

Off to continue my TSP experiment . . . .

Friday, May 6, 2011

Broken Record

The other morning as I was hollering the same instructions I holler every morning I exclaimed, "Ugh! I sound like a broken record". To which Connor said, "Huh?!' It caused me to dissolve into giggles. He has absolutely no clue what a record player is and by the time he is a teen he will be buying music electronically - none of these albums or singles to worry about.

So I launched into an explanation of records and record players. I told him how they got scratched and would get stuck repeating the same few words over and over. I was able to reference our recent trip to a radio station. It surprised me when he said, "Oh, you don't mean record like Guiness Book of Records."

I'm starting to feel old . . . . "back in my day you had to buy music at a store. You had to get up to change the channel."


Today was the annual Mother's Day Celebration at the preschool. Over the years there have been a variety of themes; Tea with Mom, Flowers for Mom and this year Mom is a Star - Hollywood themed. I like to do the crafts with the kids individually, just mom and child, its so rare that we get some one-on-one time. Its hard negotiating who will go first and explaining to the youngest child that I will be back to do the fun stuff. I spent the morning talking it through with William, 4 years, and preparing him for being left to wait with the teacher while I complete crafts with Alexander. But when we got to school Alexander ran off and sat with the children to watch a movie. A bit of coaxing failed so I left him to watch the movie and do crafts with William first.

William made me a "Best Mom" trophy and we made a movie snack and took a picture wearing a feather boa. I went back to get Alexander for our special one-on-one time. It was hard getting his attention. I finally had to beg him to take a picture with me. Afterwards he ran right back to the movie room. Since I was running late for another school activity I let him go. Such a perfect example of child #4 and totally neglected during the Mother's Day Activities. When Lainy Ann was 3 years old we completed each and every activity, some of them twice.

Dirt?! Gross!

"Boogers are yummy, but dirt is gross."

Wisdom of an 8 year old girl

Monday, May 2, 2011


It started with boxes hiding in the castle and the tree house in the back yard.  I would find the trash or recycling I had put in the can transformed into a swing for a stuffed animal or a table for lunch or maybe a new clubhouse. When I try throwing away empty tubes she rescues them and transforms them into binoculars.

My mother was complaining recently that Lainy Ann is raiding her recycling bin too. She made a guitar out of recycled materials.  But when when tried taking the milk carton to her room I put my foot down. I don't need spilled sour milk in her room.

Now its junk mail in the bedroom. Most recently, it was a flyer for most recent home sales. What on earth does my 8 year old daughter need with a real estate flyer?  Maybe she wants her own bathroom.