Julia's Guardian Angel Fund

Monday, January 25, 2010

Suggestion from the Com Box

Bearing has been to my house and seen the school area and laundry area. She suggested I post pictures so you can see those them. DISCLAIMER: Real life here...I didn't pick up, this is what it looks like in REAL LIFE.
First the school areas
The girl's area
* The top row of shelves contain manipulatives and supplies such as extra notebooks, index cards and miscellaneous activities.
* The bottom row of shelves contain game supplies, work books, a very WIDE variety of craft supplies and some coloring books.
* The bins on the left of the desks contain more arts and craft supplies, personal storage for projects unfinished and craft books and ideas.
* The girls each have two magazine holders for their curriculum (white boxes in the center of their desks).
* There is a great time line on the wall under the shelves.
* Each girl has a desk lamp.
* On the backs of their chairs are additional pouches for personal items such as notebooks, drawings, flash cards, pencils/pens, etc.
* The white plastic drawers on the left are FULL of colored paper, chalk, chalkboards (9x12), white board markers, white boards (9x12), color crayons, colored pencils, thin tipped markers, thick tipped markers, scissors, paper punches, tape, glue, glue stick, stencils, rulers, glue dots and new writing pencils.

The boy's area:
* Desk with desk light and two magazine holders for curriculum and papers due/done/to be filed.
* Bottom shelf text books, puzzles, nerf guns and legos (this is a boy's area)
* Top shelf and bins on the left contain more manipulatives, games, personal storage for the boy and busy items for the preschoolers in my life like all the broken crayons the girls have rejected, magnetic letters and lacing toys.

I'm sorry to say I WON'T show you the area just to the right of boy's area because it is a big, fat, disasterous pile that only I can navigate. That is a 2'x3' countertop with my teacher manuals, in and out bins, file folders, magazines, notebooks and other random junk that I seem to not be able to put away ;-).

Now for the family closet/laundry room:
The changing area - on the left is 10 drawers for Wee One and Tinkerdoodle. Notice (if you can) the laminated labels hanging down with pony tail holders. That is so someone other than me can not only dress the little ones, but also put their laundry away for me. What you cannot see is to the right are 10 more drawers. Four are mine and six are Little Princess'. On top is a shelf going across which holds clothes en route out of the laundry room, destined for storage because someone has outgrown them. Behind the changing pad are diapers and supplies. Below the changing pad are the dirty laundry hampers. One for dry dirty clothes, the other for wet dirty clothes. Tinkerdoodle has been potty trained for more than a year, but still has accidents. Testy Tiger wets during naps regularly. And Wee One wears clothe diapers occasionally. The wet hamper has a lined wet bag and cover to reduce "smells".

The other storage unit has three sets of ten drawers for Little Man, Little Woman, Testy Tiger and myself. In between each set are hanging rods above and sorting hampers below. On the left are whites (non linens) and colors (non pants). On the right are pants and linens. If you want my laundry sorting philosophy, I'll write about that someday. Notice the drawers are not perfectly tidy. That is because my kids must fold and put their own clothes away. I don't do it for them. I have to do mine. All three little kids' drawers are labeled so ANYONE can put away their laundry and help them get dressed.

Other things you can't see: Washer and dryer with shelves above for storage of: paper towel (I buy in bulk from Amazon Subscribe and Save....love it!), toilet paper (same - bulk from ASandS), laundry detergent (ASandS), white vinegar and baking soda, other various laundry aids, paper plates, plastic cups, and facial tissue (ASandS).

To the left of dryer is a folding table. Above the folding table is a hanging shelf where all of my very tall dear husband's shirts hang to dry.

ON top of the washer and folding table are 4 baskets. One for dear husband, Little Man, Little Woman and Little Princess where clothes come out of dryer and into the respective baskets to be folded by the owner. I put the rest in a basket below folding table.

I also didn't include pictures of my computer desk, book shelf and preschool/toddler storage. The preschool/toddler storage cabinet is 3' wide and 6' tall. It contains: playdoh and playdoh toys, puzzles, paints, preschool activity books, lacing games, magnetic games, special toys (like Hungry Hungry Hippo and Shark Fishing), dominoes, spin paint and other miscellaneous things I pull out when I need to keep the two little boys busy. I have a paper cutter and laminator stored on top to keep little hands safe.

The other thing I'll post later is bookshelves. I have more books than the local public library. Really. I do actually have them sorted and the kids have been trained to put them back in their places. Finally.

As you can see it's all pretty compressed. I do need to do some decluttering...you know, when I'm not so busy.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Winter Doldrums...

Do you have them yet?

I do. I am itching to move my homeschool around. AGAIN. (Can you hear my dear husband sigh and shake his head?)

I read Bearing's Blog. Which led me to this. Which, of course, supports my desire to move. I always spend about 2 weeks in deliberation before breaking it to the dear husband. You see, I get a lot of guff. Not just from him, but from my whole family. I like change. I had moved 20 times in the 28 years before I married my husband. I am not the settled down kind of gal. I always like to move. It's a great way to clear through the clutter. I feel like there IS nothing better than a change of scenery.

Right now, most of our school stuff is in the kitchen. That isn't where it's always been. It's been LOTS of other places. The basement "amusement room" (as it was billed when we bought the house), which is a lovely long room with a gas fireplace and huge egress window. It is by no means dark and dreary. It's very bright and cheerful, for a basement that is. The problem is that that is where the toys live. It is virtually impossible to get kids to get school work done when all those toys are sitting there, taunting them to play.

That is when we moved up to the living room. Our living room is a very large room, 19'x14'. It's well lit, but unfortunately it is right by the front door. What could be wrong with that? Well, when anyone comes to the door, the kids bolt to see who it is. That's not so bad as the salt maps or cutting disasters left after art that are there for the WHOLE.WORLD. TO. SEE. I know, I know. I have issues. I have always been a messy, but I'm more of a closet messy. You tend to not know that about me unless I really like you and am willing to let you come over when the house isn't decent. The living room was never decent, so during that dark time we never had company. EVER.

Then, I proposed a move to the office. The office is at the back of the house. It was also largely unused. My husband had a computer desk in there and we had moved some toys up there. I bought a lovely kidney shaped, adjustable height table and new chairs. It was pretty good except it didn't fit us very well in terms of size. The usable size of the room is like 10x12. The new fancy table and chairs took up most of the room. Then Testy Tiger became mobile and would regularly destroy said room.

We got real school desks from IKEA and put them downstairs for awhile. The toys moved up to the office, that was the school room. We schooled down there again.

I rethought our strategy. It seemed the kids just wanted to be where I am. That is typically in the kitchen or laundry room. We changed office into a first floor laundry. That was, by the way, probably the best thing we have EVER done. Laundry room, right off mud room, next to kitchen in a house with 6 kids. And, it's a family closet (thank you Duggar family for that idea). We have these great IKEA ANTONIUS wire basket drawers. All 6 kids and I keep our laundry in there. Wash, fold, put away all in the same room. Except when I'm behind on the laundry, then it's Wash, put in a basket and wait until there is time to sit and fold. (Note to self - when will that be?)

We decided to do school in the kitchen, kind of...I had the kids bring their school stuff up and do school at the kitchen table. Unfortunately, things didn't get taken back downstairs. Finally, we brought the desks up and moved the table out. We got an IKEA folding table and 4 chairs. Right now the big kids do their work on their desks, eat at their desks and the little boys eat at the fold down table. When my dear husband is home, we eat in the formal dining room.

God bless my husband. He never complains about my desires to move things around. He does give me a very good-natured hard time, but never complains. The dear man will do ANYTHING to keep me from moving (to another house). He does, thoughtfully, challenge my reasons for moving things around when I come to him with yet-another great idea.

Here's my beef right now that is causing me moving angst: My kitchen is small. There are usually 7 people in there. Me and six kids, one that is almost mobile. The kitchen area is 10x12. That includes the cabinet space and appliances. The eat-in kitchen space is the same size. So, in that space I have 3 desks w/rolling chairs, 3 wall-hung bookshelves, and school supplies, a fold down table, 4 bar stools and a plastic set of drawers full of art supplies. I also have 2-1x6 cube shelves full of bins. Keep in mind this is not ALL the homeschool stuff. There is a 3' wide cabinet full of toddler and preschool supplies in the laundry room (remember how small that room was?) along with my computer desk, a book shelf, washer, drier, changing table and clothing for 7 people in my house. And yes, there is more homeschooling stuff still in the basement. So sue me - I have six kids. I have to keep curriculum around for 7 grades. I'm sorry. I have stuff.

It's a full house, both with bodies and stuff. I proposed moving the school stuff back to the basement. It's the least used space in the house. My dear husband contends the kids want to be where I am (which is usually in the kitchen). He's right.

So, whether you've been to my house or not, please feel free to post suggestions while I go read Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius. One of the fruits of these exercises is contentment. I need that, don't I?

Power of Prayer

The power of prayer is amazing. But, it is not what you think. I must admit my prayer life did not start until I was over 30 years old. Now, this is very sad as I grew up Catholic. I went to Catholic school and Catechism. I prayed in church.

I must set the record straight. The Mass is something for me like no other. It is prayer. So, to say my prayer life started after 30 would be incorrect. Mass has always spoke to me like no other thing. Even when I would dabble in attending other denominations, I would literally cry when I would return to Mass. And, depending on the church, I may cry just because it is so beautiful.

My personal prayer life started after 30. Sometime after Little Princess was born in 2003, I picked up my rosary. Well, it's not exactly my rosary. It was my great grandma's rosary. I have two that were hers. She passed away in 1990. She died at the age of 99. She told my grandma not to bury her with a rosary in her hand because she couldn't stand to sit down and pray. She prayed while she worked. That rosary has meant more to me than you can imagine. So, I've been using it pretty steady now for almost seven years. Talk about some powerful stuff. When the Lord talks to me, it is usually in pictures and not in words. I don't know if that is normal. Perhaps it is because I ask Him to show me things. Perhaps He knows it is too loud here for me to hear His voice.

But the power of prayer for me is not the answering. It is the peace I feel when I pray. I know the Protestants can't understand the use of repetitive rote prayer, but you would be surprised how well you can meditate with those rote prayers. I've learned that, not only is sitting down to say the Rosary a beautiful thing from the prayer perspective, but it calms me down...me who can not sit during the day to do anything other than to check email or nurse a baby.

When praying the Rosary, we reflect on the life of Jesus as we ask Mary, His most Blessed Mother, to intercede on our behalf. Now, again, why should I go to Mary instead of Jesus directly? Well, Jesus is my Savior, there is no question of that. But Mary I can go to as a friend, a Mom, a Sister...I can talk to her like a most confident friend and I know she will take my petitions to her son. And, like at Cana, He will listen. Mary is very persuasive. This I know.

I am on day 51 of a 54 day Rosary Novena. For those unfamiliar with Catholicism, I will explain. A Novena is a nine day prayer. Think about the time the Apostles spent in prayer with Mary at their side after the Ascension of Jesus. They were afraid. They were lost without Christ to lead them. They prayed fervently. Nine days later, the Holy Spirit descended upon them. He removed their fear. They knew what to do. So we Catholics often pray for things in multiples of nines and we call it a novena.

This Rosary Novena has me making six novenas. Three novenas are asking for intercession and three are offered in thanksgiving. During the time you pray, each day you meditate upon ONE of the four sets of mysteries in the order in which they happened: Joyful (Annunciation, Visitation, Nativity of Our Lord, Presentation of Our Lord, Finding Jesus in the Temple), Luminous (Baptism of Our Lord, Miracle at the Wedding Feast at Cana, Proclamation of the Kingdom (Sermon on the Mount), Transfiguration and the Last Supper), Sorrowful (Agony in the Garden, Scourging at the Pillar, Crowning with thorns, Carrying the cross and Crucifixion), and Glorious (Resurrection, Ascension, Descent of the Holy Spirit, Assumption of Mary, Coronation of Mary). Sometimes I will use something called "Picture Beads", which is a power point presentation showing images that help me meditate. Other times, I will read passages from the Bible (because the Rosary is based on Scripture) or other books related to the life of Christ. And sometimes I just sit and nurse the baby.

This has been a wonderful journey for me because it has forced me to Stop. Pray. Sit. Meditate on our Lord's life and ask for help. I'm not usually very good at any of those things alone.

Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God
That we may be made worthy of the promises of Christ!

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Changing My Plan of Attack...

On starting solids.

I'm a funny one. I get it in my head that things NEED to be a certain way and you need a tank to move me. I have been that way on when to begin feed infants solid food, among many other things.

Pretty benign topic, right? WRONG! Well, if you would have started the debate with me on when to begin solids when I only had Little Man (11 years ago), I would have told you 4-6 months. That is when he started.

Along came Little Woman who, at 5 months was introduced to rice cereal, vomited profusely (really - 20 times in one hour). We spent the next 3 hours in the emergency room hoping nothing serious was wrong. They couldn't find anything. The next day at the pediatrician's office (not my pediatrician, but the one who had room to see me), I was advise not to rush solids. Breastfeeding was the best food for a baby until baby is 6 months. They suggested she might just have an immature digestive system. When she hit 6 months, I tried again. Same thing happened. I was scared. Not only did I not give her the same cereal (I gave her oatmeal instead), but I was sure she was ready at 6 months but she was not. Again, the pediatrician advised "waiting a little longer."

The advice didn't stop there. I had joined up with the local La Leche League in my town. I had recently moved there and had little support. They became my support. They were proponents of not starting solids until the child could sit upright, reached for food and could chew. Hey - sounded great. The other benefits would be extended amenorrhea, less allergies, virgin gut which would mean no leaky gut. I was sold. I was so scared by my daughter's reaction to even the simplest of solids, that I became an advocate.

I also had doctors starting to tell me to wait on the introduction of solids after we found that Little Woman had an anaphylactic allergy to peanuts. I had myself convinced that had I waited to introduce foods, she might not have had this problem. But was it really the other way around? The more I read, I am convinced I was wrong - for my family. I'm not saying you are wrong if you delay the introduction of solids. With six kids, I'm convinced I can make a somewhat scientific statement or two on the introduction of solids for my family.

1) The one kid that had solids at 4 months spoke clearly at 12 months and followed all the normal speech development milestones. That one kid has one allergy.
2) The four that did not start solids at 6 months or beyond have either had significant speech delays and/or significant food allergies or asthma and eczema or both.

Again, please let me state, this is in regard to my family. Your mileage may vary and I am not saying you are bad if you make different choices.

Tangent coming on - hold on...I'm so tired of moms being judgmental toward other moms. Why can't we just be okay with letting parents take care of the children God gave them according to their own wisdom and understanding (and that of their support network around them) instead of bashing them either to their face or behind their backs? Don't think it happens? Have a child and see what happens! I'm stubborn and listened to the health care providers I had at the time for introduction of solids. But, heavens, this can be fodder for losing friendships apparently. Some people are vehemently opposed to "baby led weaning" and there are those that are opposed to putting rice cereal in a baby's bottle to get them to sleep through the night. Face it folks. You are not in that parent's situation. You are not there with that baby every minute of the day to know how they sleep, if they are crabby, what is going on in the parent's lives. We need to cut each other a little bit of slack and if we give advice, give it charitably and understand that it may not be accepted. Off my soapbox...

So I did some research. Wee One started solids right at 6 months and now I wish I had done it sooner. I was told by an allergist to delay solids because at the time I received that advice, it was thought that delayed solids introduction would help prevent the development of allergies. My new pediatrician (that I really like) suggested there is a tie to late introduction to food and speech delay. He also suggested that genetics play a bigger part to food allergies than the time at which the food is introduced.

According to my research, thoughts have changed again (sigh). But, my decision was not based on the articles below, although they are the current thinking. Some are articles with references to good medical studies and others are medical studies. It is based more on my findings above, which seem to be in line with the articles below.

A well referenced article about whether introduction of foods affects the risk of food allergies: Blame it on genes

From the AAP talking about introduction of solids not affecting weight gain:
No difference in weight gain

From the UK discussing introduction of solids on development of asthma and eczema:
No affect on development of asthma or eczema

Article debunking the dogma of delayed solids among the AP/NP crowd:
Is there an advantage to delaying solids?

So, if we were ever blessed with another child, I know now which direction I will go.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Baby cakes

For years, I've wanted to make a baked food for breakfast for my new eaters (the under 9 month crowd). It was always a challenge to make something baked without eggs or dairy, which I usually introduce around 9 months of age. With all our allergies here, I have mastered cooking without those two ingredients now. Here's how I made baby cakes for my Wee One this morning.

Yield - 24 mini muffins

Mix together:
1 container Gerber 2nd Food Bananas
1 container Gerber 2nd Foods Carrots
2 tbsp. flax seed meal
2 tbsp. coconut oil
4 tbsp. water

Whisk together in a large bowl:
1 tbsp. Vance's Darifree **
1 cup Bisquick

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray a non-stick mini-muffin pan with aerosol pan spray. Fold wet ingredients into the dry. Spoon into muffin pan (about 1 1/2 - 2 tsp). Bake approximately 6-8 minutes (until edges start to brown). These are naturally sweet from the bananas and carrots. No sweetener is required.

** This is a milk substitute that contains no dairy, soy, nuts, corn, gluten, rice. 1 Tbsp of Darifree powder contains the equivalent Vitamin D and Calcium of 1 cup of milk.

You could substitute some other milk or milk substitute (2 Tbsp) for the Darifree and 2 tbsp. water.

Feed the baby and freeze the rest.