Wednesday, May 27, 2009

My theory about caffeine

I've just realized, caffeine doesn't actually give you energy. It just loans you some of your own energy from the future.

Then one day, when you go without any caffeine, you pay back all that energy plus you pay interest in the form of a massive headache.

So really it's not that great of a deal after all.

Finding my homeschooling style

I've encountered a variety of homeschooling styles in the groups I've gone along to. The first homeschooler we came in contact with back in Scotland was highly structured. Her whole house was a library and the walls were covered in educational posters and kids artwork. I felt overwhelmed and didn't know how I'd ever achieve that.

Kaya's typography art. It doesn't say anything in particular.

Then I met the unschoolers. And it appealed to me. It seemed simple and intuitive.

But I am an awkward sort of person. I need some structure in my life, to keep me accountable. I sort of like lists and organization. But at the sniff of over structure I completely rebel. When there are too many rules I start to just want to break them.

So we've been feeling our way through this and I think we're settling into something that works for us. Just the right balance for us.

We employ the unschooling approach for the most part. Which involves learning through play, spending time together, reading, going out and investigating flowers, reading stories, baking together, counting money, etc etc.

But I also take a couple hours between breakfast and lunch to do some structured school work. Even at that it's not very structured. I don't have a set curriculum to work through, I just make up a list of things I want to cover in the year, and we wing it. I have various work books which we make our way through, and it helps keep me accountable. I know we're learning enough to cover the material in the books. If something comes up which I haven't taught yet then I know what our next lesson will be.

Kaya's just finishing up her 1st grade year and Lana rekons she's done with preschool and ready to start kindergarten. She's finished the workbooks for sure, and is reading really quite well for a 4 year old. She reads the same books we get from the library for Kaya!

I think we're finally starting to settle into a routine - no that word smells too much like structure - a pattern that works for us. We have fun learning together. I learn so much too! Homeschooling has its pros and cons for sure, and I'm thinking I'll make a blog post about those at some point. I am just really enjoying getting to spend the day with my kids, from start to end, raising and teaching them and watching them grow and learn. It feels like such an accomplishment. And it's a privilege I am so grateful for.

Having said that...I am totally looking forward to the Summer break when we will take a much more laid back approach! Bring it on Summer. hehe.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I heart faces - silhouette

This week's I heart faces contest theme is silhouette. Here's my pic, which I almost accidentally submitted for the friends theme, before remembering that it needed a face in it. But this week it's allowed, of course.

Click here to see the other entries

Sunday, May 24, 2009

How to make buttermilk cheese

I'm taking a break from painting a wall, which is to become my picture wall, which I can't wait to show you all when it's done. It's my birthday present from my mum, so thanks a bunch mum! She funded it. :) The wall is drying just now so I figured I'd stop by and finally post a post I've been meaning to get up for a while.

If you remember this post then you'll already know that I got a heck of a lot of buttermilk from a food net a while ago. Someone asked what I was going to do with it all. I do enjoy cooking and baking with buttermilk. I love the slight tang it provides. But as this was already past date and I wasn't using it fast enough, I decided to make buttermilk cheese. Here's how I did it.

Preheat oven to 375.

Pour buttermilk into an ovenproof dish. I used 2, since I didn't have one large enough.

Put buttermilk in preheated oven for 15-20 minutes.

Line a colander with cheesecloth.

When the buttermilk is done in the oven, it will have separated into curds and whey.

Pour into cheesecloth lined colander to strain out liquid (I read that you can reserve this liquid and use it in cooking. I reserved it but didn't end up using it, I wasn't sure how to, so I eventually dumped it...)

Tie ends of cheese cloth and hang it somewhere (the faucet works fine) for several hours. I left it overnight.

After several hours, give it a couple squeezes to drain out any remaining liquid then open your cheesecloth and scoop the cheese into a container. Seal and store in the fridge for up to a week-ish.

Use this delicious, soft, creamy stuff as a spread, like cream cheese.

Or you can sweeten it with honey if you prefer a sweet cheese.

I used some in a spinach dip, and some to make a buttermilk frosting for cupcakes. Both were scrummy. It's softer and smoother than cream cheese, and therefor easier to spread or blend.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Fix it Friday

I've been posting my fix its over at smugmug, but a few of you have asked me photoshop questions so I figured I'd go ahead and post this here.

This weeks I heart faces fix it Friday is a picture of a sweet, but sad looking little girl. Anyone who follows me on twitter may have seen that my stylus died on me this week. I *need* my stylus to do photoshop. Otherwise it's like trying to skip rope without the rope, or trying to eat without a mouth, or trying to do a road trip without a car, or trying to have breakfast without oatmeal, or trying to socialize without talking about your kids, or kids tv or anything kid related. You get the picture.

I have a new stylus on the way, thanks to my wonderful, compassionate, hard working husband. (sucking up? me? no way) And I was going to skip on this week's fix it Friday, since my hands are so naked today. But this little girl looked so sad.

So I rolled my fingers, clumsily all over the tracker pad thingy on my laptop and made a fix on the photo. Because she needed a little happiness, a little sharpness and a bit of a color fix.

My process was basically:

- liquify tool to her mouth and brows, to make her happier

- paint, sharpen, dodge and burn on her eyes

- curves for brightness, contrast and color

- curves and mask for lighting fix

- alien skin bokeh for soft blur around edges

- high pass sharpen over whole image

And that was it. Here's the b4 and after.

Check out the other fix its here

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Let them be little

I'm totally planning on making a slideshow to that song. It's unfortunately a Country song, but the words are precious.

Please, let them be little,
'Cause they're only that way for a while.
Give them hope, give them praise,
Give them love every day.
Let 'em cry, let 'em giggle,
Let 'em sleep in the middle,
Oh, but let them be little.

We were leaving the park on Thursday, and it was pretty late in the evening. We had been at a potluck and it was long over. We had stayed later because Kaya found some guy's cell phone and Rene called the guy who was traveling across town to come collect it. It seemed to take a long time so when we were finally heading home, it was getting dark. I was also seriously sleep deprived, I had had 2 nights in a row of 2 hours sleep and was very keen to get home early to get to bed.

We packed up and started shuffling the kids towards the car. Rene was buckling in Kaya and Zoe, but Lana was still at the swings, putting on her shoes verrrry slowly. I started to get frustrated. I started to nag, "Lana, come ON, we have to leave now!" Because she's just like me, this made her want to slow down even more. She played with the stones and the sand, looked up at the trees, then wiggled her foot in her shoe a little, then took her foot back out and played with the stones, then started on her shoe a little again. By now everyone else is buckled in their car seats, waiting. I wondered to myself why she was misbehaving and I started contemplating what I could threaten her with to make her comply.

Then I stopped myself. Which I should do more often. And thought - hold on for a sec - is she *really* misbehaving? She's 4 years old. She's had a fun day at the park. She isn't sure exactly where we are taking her next or how the rest of the night will pan out - she won't have much control over that. We *all* feel the need to have control over our lives. Lana gets very insecure and scared when she doesn't know what's happening to her and feels out of control. Right now, she was in the drivers seat, and it felt comforting to her. She could decide her own pace and feel that she had control as she headed to the car. She *was* going to the car, just extremely slowly.

So it might take an extra 5 minutes if I just stand and wait. If I get mad at her now and threaten her or ground her etc we'd have the following negative outcomes:

She'll cry (possibly all the way home)

I'll get more upset

I'll feel guilty

She'll feel like she doesn't have control over anything in life, like a puppet (I feel the same way, like institutionalized. She's just like me)

That insecurity will develop into bitterness and we'll probably have more acting out later in the evening which I'll also have to deal with

Her spirit will be a little crushed, her flame slightly less bright. Maybe not enough to notice, but it builds up over time.

And the positive outcomes?

I'll be home 5 minutes earlier.

I placed them on my imaginary scales and it just made more sense to stand patiently and let her take her sweet time to walk back to the car. And she did. She took her time, and she walked back to the car. And she was happy and content. And so was I.

Sometimes we make more problems for ourselves as parents, than we need to. I am guilty of it. Sometimes we need to just remember to let them be little. Run things through the "so what" test before we make a big deal about it. Is this really a battle I want to enter into? Will this actually benefit my child to "learn a lesson" that you're not allowed to walk slowly back to cars? I expect the family to wait for me often, while I take my time over something. Lana is a valid and important member of the family, and I don't see why we shouldn't wait for her, if it's important to her to go a little slowly while she gets some closure on her adventures that evening. I think she'll learn lessons about being a valued member of a team as well as lessons in patience (through modeling) by waiting and letting her be Lana. Little Lana.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Scottish Word of the Week - Archive

Not Me Monday

I'm joining in MckMama's Not Me Monday again this week, cause I had a lot of "not me" stuff happen yesterday.

Here's what I *wish* I didn't do yesterday...

I did not do some silly lane hopping and slightly crazy driving to try to beat my husband to church, in reaction to the kids in my car screaming and goading me on, "Faster, faster! He's getting closer!"

I totally didn't cry my eyes out in the car, in front of the neighbor's kids, when "He's My Son" came on the radio. (when we got out I saw that my husband had been crying too! And he totally owned up to it)

I also didn't get to church only to find that I hadn't brought my wallet with me, nor had my husband brought his. So we had no ID, nor money.

When Turtle pooped in Church, I totally didn't realize that I had left the diaper bag at home, and have to let him sit in it until we got home. :( Cause that would have been really really bad of me.

I didn't take him out to nurse him at the very end of the service, and while I was looking down at him nursing, I totally didn't notice that my shirt was freakin' INSIDE OUT. I also didn't then pop him off, run to my husband (who was also in the cry room, with Zoe) and dump Glenn on him while I ran to the bathroom to change my shirt to inside in. How embarrassing would that have been if it really happened?

After church, I didn't find out that my gas light was on and tank was at empty. I then didn't drive home at 40 miles per hour, clear across town to try to make the gas last, because we of course didn't have wallets with us and had also left our cell phones.

Thankfully, despite all that I did *not* do, I can say that we in fact *did* get home ok. And next week I shall be much more organized!

And as Jasmine Star would say: Because all posts are better with a photo...

Saturday, May 16, 2009

I found a great new use for my bra

Firstly, I apologize in advance to my Dad, who reads this blog to check up on how the kids and I are doing father wants to hear their daughter talk about their bra. Sorry Dad.

I needed to get some more weeding and planting done at my garden patch today. It's been difficult to get much done through the week because I have the kids with me and they tend to run off in different directions as soon as I let them loose down at the allotments. So today I left all four of them with their Daddy, even though the youngest is sick and has been puking, high temp and generally feeling miserable all day. In addition to our 4, he had the neighbors' 3 kids over too. So it was 7 against 1.

Whilst he was busy making young children giggle, and caring for sick babies, I was working away in the sunshine, bopping along to my ipod nano.

Have you ever seen this video?

(video removed because my blog seemed broken and I'm hoping taking off the video might help)

It was kind of like that for me today. I started off pulling weeds and listening to some good worship songs, and prayerfully humming or whistling along. The songs were so powerful. I could only take so much of this praise music at full volume pumping into my soul before I had to just close my eyes in the middle of the garden patch, ignoring the dude on his cell phone in the corner and the old man in his little drive along scooter thingy who kept trying to talk to me about gardens and the grandfather out with 2 young girls on bikes, and just sing to Jesus at the top of my lungs, with my eyes closed and mud covered hands lifted high.

It was amazing. I was praying mostly for Adam and Aimee Freeman who bury their sweet daughter tomorrow. I was also praying for a couple of friends of ours who are having marriage difficulties. And I was praying for me too. For a closer walk with Jesus. And out there in the hot sun, without the kids around, without distractions, and with beautiful music dancing on my ear drums, I just got lost in worship, and it renewed my spirit.

The annoying thing was, my ipod kept falling out of my pocket when I bent over to pick out a weed. It really interrupted the spirit of things. So eventually I looked around, to make sure no one was looking, and I stuffed the ipod in my bra. And it stayed put just great. Rene's awesome Nana used to keep her purse stuffed in her bra, so I did this in tribute to her. Who ever knew bras could be so multi-purpose?

The loud singing of praises didn't embarrass me, nor did my stuffing an mp3 player in my undergarment, but I was very embarrassed as I was trying to leave and my car alarm started going off, and I couldn't figure out for the life of me how to switch the darn thing off. It's done it to me twice this week now. I think there's some electrical fault. Or it's possessed or something. Then everyone was really staring, and I had wanted to make this really cool exit; yanno, singing girl doesn't care if people stare, she plays cool and then drives off. But I ended up talking to my car while my face turned red and I sighed and frantically pressed panic buttons and got in and out of the car as I drew more and more attention to myself.

Then eventually I sorted it, drove home and saw that Rene was coping great. Maybe we should hurry up and have 3 are so much fun.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Doing better today

This pic embarrasses me because it's center point is my oversized, floppy boob... but Kaya took it and I think it's really sweet despite breast.

Thanks for all the awesome, kind, encouraging comments on my "confessing failure" post. I was really touched and it really helped.

I'm glad to say I am (at least momentarily) coming out of the slump. I've had a couple of much better days. I thought I'd share some of my accomplishments today:

Made breakfast - What berries, hot milk, vanilla and maple syrup (yum)

Got the kids and myself dressed

Headed out to foodnet - got some goodies including a watermelon - terriaki tofu and an interesting looking veggie dip. I survived Zoe's episode of trying to run away from me, through the entire building

Took the kids to the zoo, despite the rain and the severe thunderstorm warning

Saw a baby horse and other animals. Let the kids play in wet sand.

Piled kids back in car and went to allotment/garden patch. Did some weeding and some planting and some stopping kids from trampling everyone else's plants! Also put in a fish windmill, to scare off bunnies - a bit of an experiment anyway.

Back home, wet, muddy, tired and satisfied.

Turtle had a freak out session, which he NEVER does. I knew something was wrong. We was high pitched screaming, but wouldn't nurse. I stripped him down - no mark on him. Massaged his tummy, which didn't help. Then I found a transparent sticker stuck on the roof of his mouth! Removed it and he was a happy chappy, though I had a bit of post traumatic stress.

Did laundry, took out trash in bathroom and bedroom. Swept, cleaned kitchen, tidied livingroom.

Cooked supper.

Now my brother is over, it's Friday night and I'm chillin' and getting ready for tv-athon when the kids are asleep.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Home now

Job 1:21 (NIV)

"Naked I came from my mother's womb,
and naked I will depart.
The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away;
may the name of the LORD be praised."

I got chills when I read this passage as a teenager, and thought of how faithful it was for Job to say these things, after losing everything - including his children.

I wondered if I'd ever be so strong. I couldn't imagine losing my own kids, and certainly couldn't imagine praising God through such tragedy. I printed this scripture off and hung it on my wall, right over my bed. So I saw it every night and morning. It was powerful to me, and I prayed I'd grow strong roots to stay firm through whatever life would throw at me.

And by the time life started throwing my worst nightmares at me, I knew the verse by heart and the meaning was also rooted in my heart. After losing Heather, I didn't really need to remind myself to praise God. It was native. It was all I had left. I wanted the Earth to just melt away so I could fall into Jesus' arms. He was all I knew, He was my comfort, my peace and my hope. I didn't feel angry at Him, or like He had caused her death - but I felt him hold me and cry with me and promise me her safety with Him in eternity. And it was everything.

My prayer is that the Freeman's will feel God's comfort and peace today and will cling to him. Sweet baby Kayleigh died last night. They had longed to take her home before she passed, she lived 11 months and never made it home, to the room they had prepared for her. Though, ultimately she is home now.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Confessing failure

Too often I'm caught in the trap of pretending everything is fine and I'm doing a dandy good old job at keeping everything together. It seems almost like a competition, especially in the attachment parent circles, to prove how well we're doing.

Like, as soon as you get together with the AP girls, make sure to get rid of the disposable diapers in the diaper bag and replace them with the fuzzi bunz. And don't bring the stroller with you - what would everyone think? Make sure to only bring a sling, and keep your child in there as long as possible. Remember to breastfeed each child at least once in front of everyone else and if anyone asks how you are, don't just say "fine", but instead say "fantastic!" with added enthusiasm.

I'm so guilty of it myself. And I secretly feel relieved when I spot a disposable diaper or a non-organic banana from walmart in amongst their belongings.

We're all just trying to do our best. I think we need to admit our failures more often, so others can see that we're not alone in slipping up sometimes. It doesn't mean we should just give up trying, or that we're less of a mother because we didn't do things exactly the way the Sears book said we should.

So in the spirit of encouraging the community of well meaning mothers...I have some confessions of my own. I'm having a hard time right now. I'm sure it's just a phase. A season. As I write this, I am incredibly sleep deprived, which I know severely alters my perception. I'm sure things aren't as difficult as they feel at this moment.

I felt fantastic during my pregnancy with Turtle. I love how balanced I feel when I'm pregnant. I feel in touch with my emotions, I feel feminine and womanly, I feel important and special, and I get fantastic energy boosts with the nesting instinct. My house looked great through most of the pregnancy. And for the first few months afterwards I was riding on the birth high. I had such a great birth experience and such a peaceful baby, and life seemed at an ultimate high.

Maybe what I'm having right now is a let down. Maybe still crazy hormones as I am almost 8 months postpartum. I've never had PPD before, and I sure hope I'm not heading that way this time...

I feel a bit stuck in a rut just now. Maybe over the past 4-5 weeks or so.

My house has been getting messier and messier, especially after I had my teeth pulled and had a week where I got nothing done. It hasn't recovered from that yet.

I'm behind in the homeschooling, especially with Kaya. I mean, she does fine, but I had a schedule for myself and I'm no where near where I want to be with it.

I've spent too many days in my jammies all day.

I've yelled at my kids too much. I've let them watch way more crap on Netflix than I'm at all happy with.

I've started drinking soda again.

I haven't made my own bread in about 3 weeks, since we've been getting our bread from food net.

Rene and I are bickering too much and not making up enough.

I haven't been reading my bible enough.

I need a kick start to get back on track. I need motivation. I'm loving the sunshine and the beautiful weather, but it hasn't been enough to give me the energy I need. I had a super busy weekend, other than a few hours we spend relaxing at my friend's farm in the sunshine, we were pretty much on the go a lot. I got a maximum of 2 hours sleep on Saturday night, had a bit of a crappy day on Sunday, then got little sleep again last night. I'm pretty sure every fluid in our whole house, bottled or bodily, has been spilled today, and every towel has been used up. I've had at least one child mad at me or a sibling at any given moment today. I'm just tired and weary.

And I am the sort of person who goes through phases. I'll jump in to super mom mode again here one of these days (soon...surely?!) and I'll try to compensate for doing poorly before, and then I'll exhaust all my resources again and fall into another slump. It's my flaw, I'm not great with balance. I hope I'm at least doing right by the kids, and not completely ruining them.

Feel free to tell me I don't sound any worse than the next person, and that everyone shares these struggles and I'm actually doing great! *hint*. I do thrive on encouragement. And sleep. Sleep would help too.

I heart faces - laughter

{{Edited to add my winner button. Yay!}}


I'm really not in a good mood today, nor am I having a very good day. So I was glad to see this week's theme at I heart faces is laughter.

Seeing all the smiling faces is certainly uplifting.

My entry is a photo of Lana, splashing in water when she had recently turned 3. Back when she had hair. Such pretty hair too. Kind of sad...but I'm supposed to be getting happy from looking at the laughs so I won't dwell on that!

Go look at all the laughing faces:

Sunday, May 10, 2009

It's silly of me, I know

..silly because it's just a commercialized holiday

silly because it's not really a day any different from yesterday, or tomorrow

silly because my arms are so full of kids and my cup overflows

silly because I have so much to be thankful for...

But I really miss her extra today.

Heather's story

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Going Unplugged

More info here. Friday is my day.

How to make a self watering container

I've read that a self watering container is best for growing vegetables in, because they can take as much water as they want, when they want, so less risk of over or underwatering. It's also less maintenance for the gardener, as they don't require watering every day.

But they can be pretty pricey. We bought 2 medium sized self-watering containers for $10 each, and that was as cheap as we had seen them. We were going to need more than that but were about out of money. So we decided to make our own, cheaply.


A regular plant pot or tub
scrap fabric
a smaller tub for insert/reservoir - make sure it fits the bottom of your tub without leaks in the sides
A piece of piping, or you could use an empty plastic bottle

Fill in any drainage holes in the pot. You can use putty or line with a bag etc.

Poke holes in the insert/smaller tub.

Cut up strip of fabric and thread them through the holes in the insert. These will act as the wic, to suck up water from the reservoir.

Cut up piping, or plastic bottle. We will be using this to fill the reservoir with water, every few days.

Cut a hole in the insert, to place the piping.

Place insert in pot, make sure there are no gaps.

Have your kids help you if you want. They come in handy for that.

Try to stop your 7 month old from ingesting too many microbes

Fill with dirt, plant your plants. Water from above once, then fill the reservoir. From now on, only water from the pipe.