Monday, April 25, 2011

Lack of accomplishment - with 5 kids

We had a busy and tiring (especially for Rene) weekend. I was exhausted too, lots of physical work and very little sleep. Today was a very Scottish day, cold and rainy, overcast and yucky. So I decided to make it a "lazy day" and I didn't get much accomplished.

But it's amazing how different "not doing much" looks now, with 5 kids, from how it looked a few years ago when I was childless. Perhaps a lazy day then would be snuggling in front of the telly with a blanket, checking my e-mail a few times, eat, have a bath.

My lazy day today included the following:

cook porridge
make kefir
Wash a load of diapers
dress kids
wash a load of laundry
nurse multiple times
giggle and laugh with kids and baby
change many diapers
bake loaf of bread
make silly videos with kids
emergency shower 2 year old who pooped all over
clean up spilled poop on floor
fetch many cups of water and miscellaneous requested items
answer questions about the solar system
water seedlings
wipe tears
referee fights
help 2 year old go to potty
feed and water bunnies
misc mundane tasks like changing bed sheets, putting away some laundry etc
colors and books with kids
help kids with spelling activities
get a couple computer projects finished
get out sewing machine to sew but find it's broken to do some stitch ripping instead
clean bathroom
tidy livingroom (twice)

And I feel guilty that I didn't do enough, because there was much on the todo list that didn't get seen to. There was no TV involved today, or snuggling on couches but there was some Internet surfing and sitting on my bed. Rene worked hard all day, came home and cooked a meal and helped with cleaning. I'm a lucky woman.
But there's no rest for the wicked. I guess that means Rene has recently been a little more wicked than I???

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fair trade, natural, fun, delicious Easter craft

I love spring. I love the bulbs bursting out of ground that looked dead all these months. I love the sweetness and hope that comes from the new life all around; baby lambs nursing, baby birds chirping, bunnies getting all twitterpated and frolicking around. I love the warmth in the breeze and the promise of summer it carries with it.

And it's all symbolic of Easter itself and all that we celebrate on that day. Life bursting forth from death, new life (in him), hope and promise for the future. It's the day Jesus kicked death in the rear end and showed who's boss. It's because of that day I have hope that I'll see my daughter again one day, it's because of that day that I don't fear the end of my days on earth, it's because of that day I celebrate my God who is so strong nothin' can keep him down, not even death itself. It's an incredible day.

I enjoy anticipating Easter with little kids. We always do a treasure hunt on Easter morning, just as my parents used to do for my brother and I every year. My monkeys love it. They've been counting down days until Easter since the end of March.

This Easter though, I'm reluctant to buy the same junk they usually find in their baskets in the morning. We've found that Zoe reacts severely to colorings in food. The kids all react in some way, but Zoe's is the most extreme. I would rather enjoy our Easter with happy little kids playing, than pull my hair out all day while Zoe runs up and down the walls, foams at the mouth and rotates her head 360 degrees. So I have asked the Easter bunny to help track down some natural candy. Which was easy enough, (though pricey).

The difficult part however, is finding fair trade Easter chocolate. Of course fair trade isn't any healthier. But I've learned recently that if I buy any chocolate off the shelf that isn't fair trade, there's a majority chance that I'm supporting Ivory Coast chocolate, where there are tens of thousands of children being sold and kidnapped into slavery, hardly fed, beaten and even killed, to feed our fancy for a bit of choccy. I just cannot justify it.

I don't have my speakers to verify this is the video I was thinking of, but I hope it is..

Anyway, now that you know, you can't claim ignorance anymore. If you're not part of the solution you're part of the problem. So buy fair trade!

< / preach session>

It's not easy to find fair trade Easter themed chocolate. So the first thing I did was e-mail various Easter/candy webstores and asked if they have any fair trade Easter chocolates. I encourage you to do the same, ultimately the consumer makes the vote and can change the industry. The more we ask for fair trade, the more they'll buy fair trade. Let's start turning their heads with a simple contact us form, just ask a simple sentence question about fair trade. You don't have to get elaborate.

Due to lack of success in locating fair trade Easter chocolate, I opted to make our own. It's a fun craft, the kids love it, it's delicious, it counts as homeschooling time and it helps everyone get more riled up for Easter.


So here's what you'll need (I didn't measure anything, just play by ear until you get it right):
For the nest -
-Some fibrous edible substance for the nest, such as wheetabix, noodles or shredded wheat. We used kashi vanilla island mini wheats, because it's what we had in stock.
-Some fair trade chocolate chips. I found mine at hyvee, but you can also buy them online, like these ones at
-honey ( I used raw, but ended up heating it to make it runny)
For the eggs and birds -
I sort of made it up as I went along. Some dry ingredients and some wet ones from your pantry. Throw some in and see what you come up with. Here's what I used
powdered milk
tapioca starch
sugar (which I threw in the blender to powder it, not sure if it was necessary, but it was fun)
peanut butter
splash of milk
palm shortening
coconut oil
natural food coloring (you can make your own by boiling down beet juice, blending blueberries and avacados etc or buy some. I bought mine)

Here's the steps:

Pour the wheat, wheatabix etc in a large bowl, give the kids a big spoon or potato masher and let them go to town, smashing it to smithereens. They'll love this part.

Pour the fair trade chocolate chips in another bowl and nuke them on low/medium for about a minute. Take it out, stir it, then in for another 30 seconds or so. Stir again. Then do 20 seconds at a time until it's good and melted. Or you can do this in a double broiler, keep stirring, don't let any water splash in and be careful not to burn.

Melt some honey (or if it's already runny you're good to go) and add it to your melted chocolate. Stir in the wheat and mix it all in until it's nice and gooey and wet all through.

Then the best bit - getting messy. Pull out a lump of the nesting material with your hands and shape it into a nest. You can place on greaseproof paper or cupcake papers. We used coffee filters, which worked just fine.

When you're happy with the shape, stick it in the fridge to harden.

Then get a clean bowl and make up the dough. Throw in the wet and dry ingredients, stir and add more of whatever until it's a good consistency. The main component of your dough should be a nut butter of some type.

Then separate the dough into tubs and add natural colorings to each one. My kids had fun working the colors in with their hands and getting all greasy.

Now it's ready to play with and make your eggs. My girls wanted to make birds too, which were adorable. Have fun, be creative. Take your nest out of the fridge and place your eggs in it. It's ready to eat right away and can be kept in the fridge for a while (couple days?) if you want to save it for later. I was a bit nervous to try the dough, but it ended up being my favorite part. I'm not a huge peanut butter fan, but it was really yum.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

This very minute

I have paint and stain all over myself from working on a project, and the kids won't take any rebukes seriously with white paint on my nose

I have awesome tunes singing at me through pandora

My grinder is noisily making flour for the loaf of bread I'm about to make

There's a pot of coffee brewing

Zoe's walking past with a metal bowl on her head, and she's banging it with a spatula

Ally's smiling at me and making raspberry noises from his bouncy seat while Lana coos at him

Turtle is sucking his thumb and using my trousers (that I'm currently wearing) as a foofy and intermittently getting down on all fours hopping like a frog and pretending he's a horse (that hops?)

The fire alarm just went off because the oven needs cleaned out

There's mess everywhere needing wiped and cleaned and put away

The seedlings need watered and my feet hurt and I'm sleep deprived

and I very much love my life. Thank you God for all these blessings.

Monday, April 4, 2011

he/she's my life

On Saturday we finally were healthy enough (after weeks of illness) to head out to the YMCA for the kids' lessons. Having dropped off Kaya and Rene in their taekwondo and Lana in her dance class, with Zoe and Turtle playing in the child watch, I had a bit of quality time with Ally.

I looked down at his adorable wee head, snuggled into my chest in the Over The Shoulder Baby Holder sling, gave him a little kiss and then uttered some words innocently, unaware of what this action would bring about. Had I known, I would have spared it for a more appropriate time and place. Certainly not in the YMCA hallway, with people all around, on this busy Saturday morning.

What I had whispered to my baby was the simple phrase, "you're my life".

As soon as the words left my lips I began to be instantly transported back in time. I went back nearly ten years in a fraction of a second, so fast it was disorienting. It was hard to not fall over, I was dizzy and suddenly felt cold and wet. It was cold and bitter, must have been early November. It smelled like Scotland...yes, it was the street Rene and I lived on as newlyweds in Bonnybridge, Scotland. It was pitch dark, about 4 in the morning. Bitter cold, yet I was barely dressed. Why was I out at this unsociable hour?

And so wet. My knees, and my cheeks were drenched. The ground was wet from rain and I was kneeling on the ground, aware that I was making a ridiculous scene in this quiet neighborhood. And I really didn't care what they thought of me. The boundaries that surrounded my life were coming completely undone. I was screaming at the top of my lungs, heaving with the effort, in a state of utter panic and screaming as loud as I could,

"Please God, NO! Please God, nooooooo! She's my life. She's my life!!!"

I knew it was probably too late. She had gone far too long without taking a breath. I was sure I had heard her making a noise, I would hold onto that slither of hope as though I were grasping a root as I plummeted off a cliff. Plus, I had seen Reinhard Bonnke on tv, raising someone from the dead. And Jesus had raised Lazarus, so it could be done.

And if anyone deserved to be raised, it was this sweet, perfect daughter of mine. She had only had 10 weeks on this Earth so far, and had already had a huge impact on it. Certainly on her father and I, on her grandparents. She was a little piece of perfection. And I knew she would be a fantastic mother one day, she still hadn't had that chance yet. There's no way God could let this happen. Not with her whole future ahead of her. So I pleaded and I begged and I screamed and I wept and I threw a big fat temper tantrum right there in my street, at 4am on a cold November Friday morning.

Then I saw the flashing lights finally come up my street, and I ran back to my home, suddenly aware of how far away from it I had traveled. I saw a man from our church run out of the ambulance and I knew this was my best hope. His equipment couldn't save her now, but God could. I didn't care what tubes he would poke in her or what he'd pump into her lungs. I had no faith in them. So I continued at the volume I had used on the street and I begged him, completely undignified, "Danny, YOU HAVE TO PRAY! PLEASE PRAY!!"

But I watched him carry her to the ambulance, and we followed, and I saw him refuse to give up trying, but in his eyes I read that he knew she wasn't coming back. He would continue to try the whole journey, which was a 20 minute journey that took days. I'm sure it was days. Many of them.

Half way there I felt a peace wash over me. As though I felt her spirit leave this world, and look back at me and wink. I knew she was going somewhere amazing, and I knew I was going to follow her. I didn't feel any guilt over the matter, I didn't feel like it would be wrong or irresponsible, I thought perhaps after we got out of the hospital Rene and I would go take a drive in the car into a quarry or some place from which we would not return. I wasn't sure how we'd do it, but I was pretty sure he'd want to join me. And it felt wonderful, a deep peace at the thought of going where she was going.

From the moment her little feet slid out of my body and she was placed low on my abdomen while they untangled her, and in my exhausted, bewildered state, I held onto her body for dear life, I lived to protect her. She was everything. That moment my future became completely entwined in her.

Fused together inseparably. I would sometimes stare at her and imagine her at all sorts of ages and stages, as a child, a teenager, a mother, an old woman. Any hopes I had for my own future were all found in her. There was no way to remove her from it. There never will be. So it was completely natural to me that I would take my life since she had lost hers. Staying here where she wasn't, made no sense and I was certain everyone would understand and even expect it.

If we were to find an important building, like an embassy or a prison or some other high security facility - if we were to find such a place raided, windows smashed, recently abandoned, we would be shocked. It would make the news. But it if were to happen in the middle of an apocalypse, while far more terrible things were going on all around, while the foundations of the earth were caving in and the air was thick with blood red smog and corpses littered the earth and the sky itself was cracking open, we wouldn't even bat an eyelid at the state of the embassy. Out of context I knew suicide was not something to be considered. But the entire world was coming to an end here. A mother does not bury her own daughter. Surely some important law of physics was being broken and the whole universe was going to collapse. Taking my life would be entirely appropriate given the context.

So a few blurs later, when the man in a white coat told us he was sorry, there was nothing he could do, and my husband threw his whole body into the arms of his own father and vomited in the hallway, I sat still and dived into this Dr's crystal blue eyes as though swimming through refreshing cool waters in July. I couldn't really make out any of his words and everything around me became a smudged fuzz, but those eyes were clear and crisp. And I knew everything would be ok. I was going to go to heaven!

I suspect my family and close friends anticipated I'd feel this way because they made a combined effort to ensure Rene and I were never left alone for the next few weeks. Mum gave up her bed for us to sleep, we had chauffeurs to the store, escorts back to our house to dispose of diapers and loved ones to hold us while we crumbled in fits of sobs, listening to her little giraffe mobile that she had so adored, chiming, "you are my sunshine" to nobody.

We had people to confide in when we heard her ghost cry out to us, or when I woke with engorged breasts and instinctively panicked that she hadn't eaten all night and then had to lose her all over again. Just as I had done the 4 proceeding days. We were surrounded with love and support and weren't left alone.

Well, we were left alone long enough to conceive Kaya, who's dates we're still uncertain of. But it was sometime very close to her sister's death, on one side or the other of it. I stared at the 2 pink lines in shock, bewilderment, excitement, fear and hope. And suddenly, I was grounded. Heather gave me wings to soar above it all and Kaya gave me the roots to bloom a bit here before I take flight someday.

And with that memory I began to spiral back to 2011, back to the YMCA where I leaned against a wall to stop from falling, I looked at this little fuzzy head at my bosom, I inhaled the fragrance of new life and I used all my might to fight off the drops of salt water that tried to force themselves out of my eyes and onto my cheeks. 5 of them overwhelmed me and I wiped them quickly, aware of strangers' eyes on me, trying to make sense of a fat dreadhead crying in the corridor. I glanced through the window and saw Lana spinning and dancing to her own instruction while the rest of the class followed the teacher's steps. I looked toward the room where Daddy blushed and caught his breath trying to swing kick while Kaya blocked it. I felt the hushed pounding of my baby's heart against my body while his chest rose and fell. I had to sit down as I was overcome with awe at how my life has incredibly turned around in the past 10 years. I have such loss and such gain. God did not answer my pleading that cold November in the dark, at least not in the way I wanted him to. But he protected me through it all, preserved me, held me, comforted me and has given me more than I could have envisioned back then.

I caught sight of my reflection in the glass. My eyes met the reflection of my son's, all cozy in my sling. He exposed two big rows of gums in a warming grin and I smiled back. He's my life. They all are. I am so thankful.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Getting my tubes tied today..

I figured 5 kids is enough. And I've given birth 6 times and don't care to do it again. I don't think I'll ever get baby fever again, I don't care for pregnancy or birth much. And overpopulating the earth isn't very green. So in I go for the snip snip.

And yes, of course I made an April fool out of you. I figured everyone else is pretending they're pregnant today, but it wouldn't be shocking for me, so I went with the more shocking, "I'm NOT having any more kids" route. Did I get ya?