Thursday, June 30, 2011

Happy Birthday, Mr. Mayor!

 Eight years ago, The Mayor was born by Caesarean section.  An ultrasound predicted a weight of 11 lbs. 10 oz., so I was not given the option of waiting for a natural delivery!  Imagine my disappointment when he was "only" 9 lbs. 7.5 oz.!   As Mrs. Cosby used to say on The Cosby Show, 9 pounds of it was head!

Although he spent some time in the Special Care Nursery with high blood sugar common to big babies, he came home at the normal time.  And we went straight to the beach for our annual 4th of July picnic with the grandparents and cousins. 

He was welcomed into the family by two adoring older sisters...
who have since become the bane of his existence.

Even though I dropped him on his nose when he was 4 months old, he has turned out alright.
 At three, he climbed the lowest of the Adirondack high peaks, Cascade, without a complaint or a carry (except when we wanted to carry him in a certain place).  We were impressed.
 At four, he became a big brother.  Usually, he loves to play with and take care of The Princess.

The Mayor earned his nickname at Easter a year ago, when we went our to dinner with Grandma, Grandpa and Great-Grandma.  We walked into the restaurant and he took over, telling the hostess exactly what we needed and where to seat us.  He was very charming about it.  He is, like his sisters, very friendly and talkative, and has never met a stranger.  So the nickname fits because he is always willing to have a dish of conversation with someone and tell them how it's going to be.

he attended public school kindergarten for about half a year, and has been home-schooled ever since.  We started homeschool because we were moving around a lot, but I think it's really beneficial for him because he can move at his own pace, which is fast!  He took of reading very quickly, and now read, spells and does math way above grade level.  I think if he were at school, he would do his work quickly and then talk to other students, which is what happened in kindergarten.

One thing homeschooling has done for him is to ignite a love for birdwatching.  Once while bike riding near Philadelphia I told him I thought I saw an oriole and he told me what sound it would make if there was one; something we had learned months before, but he remembered.  Moments later, we heard it call and his eyes lit up!

Today he is packing to go off to Pirate Camp on Sunday, where no doubt he will charm everyone again.  It's exciting because this is his first year to stay a whole week instead of half! He was ready to stay longer before, but camp wasn't ready for him!

Things sure will be quiet around here while he's gone, and I predict the Princess won't know what to do with herself without her big brother. 

After camp's over, we're going to see a Pediatric GI doctor to find out once and for sure whether he has celiac disease or not; he's been on a gluten-free diet since he was about a year old.  We were hoping that he would grow out of his sensitivity, as I did, and genetic testing was inconclusive regarding celiac.  He's been on a "wheat test" all this week and so far, I have not seen any reaction which is great.  He is not even cranky.  But I am not sure he would tell me if he did have a tummy-ache, because he likes eating the wheat.  So we'll leave that up to the medical professionals. I would love to see his "special tummy" go away!

What other special events await an 8-year-old boy?  Can't wait to find out.  I've never had an 8 year old boy before!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Trying to Stay Busy

Todd has been overseas for more than a week (see link in sidebar).
I used to put off doing fun things while he was away because 1.) I felt outnumbered and 2.) I didn't want him to miss out on things.  Then I realized, *he's* overseas.  We are the ones missing out!  So, I should go ahead and do fun things. So this year my goal is to keep everyone as busy as possible.
Here's a sampling of what we've been up to:
17th: Airport. On the way home, stop at Borders to get free books. Old Navy, Wal-mart, AC Moore.  Exhausted.
18th:  Homeschool Co-op Year-end picnic, even though we didn't go to co-op this year.  We will go next year.  Good chance to make friends.
19th: Father's Day picnic at my sister's, since we already celebrated Father's Day and birthday with the other Grandpa on the 15th.
20th:  We went to the beach with some friends in the afternoon.
21st:  Stayed home to get some housework and paid work done.  Should have waited a day... Soccer in evening.
22nd:  Intended to go strawberry picking, rained out.
23rd Rained out.  Orthodontist, Library.  Went to soccer anyway!
24th Rained out.  The Mayor went to a birthday movie with Grandpa. 
25th Rained out.
26th:  Birthday party for the Princess and the Mayor, NOT rained out despite ominous clouds.  Thank you GOD!
This week:  Rec basketball, Extra Tae Kwon Do, Library Summer Reading Kick-off party, physicals for 2, Overnight with friends for 2, Soccer, church.  Week after:  Mayor goes to camp, family picnic at Schroon (at least I think we are still on for this, even though B-I-L has a broken leg).  The girls will start volunteering at the library, have volleyball camp, go to the ballet...and at the end of the week, The Girl has her Green Belt I test at Tae Kwon Do.  Daddy comes home on a Monday.

Yep, I think I have succeeded in keeping us all busy for these three and a half weeks!  It doesn't actually end there: we will have a very busy summer lined up with more weeks of camp, summer enrichment classes, and the math lessons that I have not let them stop doing.  I finally stopped saying "we'd better not sign up for stuff because we don't know if we will be here..." Now I say, "If we leave, we leave, it's not that great of a loss to have spent $35 on rec programs."  I'm letting myself and our kids invest in life here like we live here and are not just passing through.  I hope I'm wrong.  But for now, it's okay.  Good, even. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Rose Garden- The Yaddo

 I'm happy that I remembered to go to The Yaddo this year before the short season of blooming had passed.  We were here two years ago on the Giant's birthday, so now I have a mental peg to hang it on, that helps me remember when to go. Even though Todd was getting ready to leave the country the next day, we took a couple hours last Tuesday to visit this peaceful, free retreat.

The Yaddo was the home of Spencer and Katrina Trask, and after Katrina's death it became a retreat for artists.  Only the gardens are open to the public, but there is a mansion where writers, choreographers, filmmakers, sculptors and others come to work.

I don't have much to say about the visit, I just wanted to share the pictures.  I will tell you that we didn't pick the flowers that you see us holding or wearing; we learned last year that you can find the spot where they dump the clippings and get some nice flowers or petals from it, so that's what we did.

If ever you find yourself in the Saratoga Springs, NY area in mid-June, I hope you will put this spot on your list of places to visit.  Unlike a botanical garden, nothing here is labeled- so a visit is not primarily an educational event, although one could make it so.  It's an opportunity to enjoy the scenery, it's romantic, and it's quiet.  No responsibilities.  In fact it's enjoyable when the flowers are out of season, as well as for picnics, the koi pond, and the water feature (although that's awaiting repairs at the moment). 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Another Birthday Blog!

Today the Little Princess turns 4.
She is confused about this because we had a birthday party last Wednesday for all of the June birthdays and Father's Days, since Daddy wouldn't be here today or yesterday.  So, she is not sure if she is already four or has yet so achieve this milestone.   She may think there's going to be a party today, but the "friend party" is not taking place until Sunday and will be shared with the Mayor, who is approaching 8 (Yes, another birthday blog next week!).
A little look back over 4 fun years.

We don't actually call this child "Princess" around  home- that's for kittens.  But with a doting older brother and two sisters, she has her fair share of princess moments.  When she was two, she insisted all footwear was "Gah!"  If she held up her foot and said this, someone, certainly, would bring the princess a shoe eventually.

The Princess was the smallest of our new arrivals, weighing in at 9 lbs 5 oz.  Yes, that's the smallest!  She spent some time under a space helmet in the Special Care nursery, but she came home on time.  That Home was only Home for 6 weeks, and we've been on the move for the most part ever since.

It's exhausting!

The Princess also answers to the name "Bear."  The Giant gave her that name one night in the camper, just talking to her and saying it because it rhymed.  She glanced at me, realizing she had just given her baby sister her nickname, and the name stuck.

She is a happy girl.
While I could say that in many ways she is just like one of her siblings (she looks a lot like the Giant), she is also one-of-a-kind!
She wouldn't talk, so much so that I had a speech evaluation team come and talk to her.  Their finding:  completely normal!  (Her older sibs were so chatty, my idea of "normal" was wayyy off!)  her method of learning to walk?  Also, all her own. 

When it came to teeth, she was the only one to get any before a year of age (they surprised me at 9 months!)  When it comes to cuddling, she pats me on the back even when she's the one who's hurt.

It's not hard to blog about this kid, because she was born in the digital age when pictures are many and don't have to be scanned in to be shared! 
The difficulty is only in choosing which ones to share!

Do any of my readers own the book about the Big, Hungry Bear who can smell a Red, Ripe, Strawberry a mile away?  We do!  This picture was taken a year ago in a strawberry patch, and I can't wait to go again this week.  Our bear loves them!

It's hard to believe my littlest bear is going to be 4 years old.  I've never had my youngest be this old without another one on the way.  I'm certainly not rushing her towards her milestones as I may have done with the older kids.  I want to enjoy four.  Things are so different now than when the others were this age, and I get to enjoy her without looking ahead to kindergarten because she'll be home and I get to be the one to teach her to read.

She's the one who talked the most about our accident little by little in the months after it happened.  A week or so after, I was feeling emotional and cuddly about it and I told her, "I'm so glad I have you."  She looked at me solemnly and said, "I didn't die in that truck."  When I think about the accident my mind often goes to the image of her dangling from the top of the truck still in her car seat, as I helped the other kids get out so that I could get to her.  She dropped into my arms and I handed her out the sunroof to a stranger.  What a memory to have.  She has occasionally made comments when I am driving that tell me she doesn't quite trust me behind the wheel yet.  If we are alone she tells me not to go so fast (35mph) or get too close or I will crash this car like I did the black truck.  Not my proudest parent moments!
I'm glad we have lots of years left to replace those memories with some better ones.  Someday I will take her to Istanbul and Greece and Rome, or maybe to China.  I'll show her the Great Wall and the shockingly blue Aegean Sea.  People will reach out and touch her superfine blonde hair and ask to have their picture taken with her because she's beautiful. 
Happy Birthday beautiful girl!

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Bread Recipes

I've recently begun baking bread again.  I don't own a bread machine anymore (a victim of one of our many down-sizings), so I'm using the dough hook attachment on my Kitchenaid stand mixer for basically the first time since we got the mixer.  A friend just asked me to share recipes, and I like to do that over the blog, even though my girls are pretty mad that I shared their secret-recipe cookie dough here.

When we became a vegetarians in high school, my friend Jamie and I learned to cook together.  I still remember standing in the produce section of Price Chopper trying to figure out what a eggplant was.  There were too many labels over one shelf!  So we asked a bystander.  She didn't know either.  I don't remember how we figured it out.  About the same time, we made hummus and mistook a "clove" of garlic for a "bulb!"  That was some garlicky sandwich spread!!

I don't think I started experimenting with bread until college.  Better than what most college students experiment with...Ahm!  I do not remember much success at that time either.  I had a terrible time getting yeast to "work," and now I think I used hot water.  And the worst part was that I hated wasting anything, so I would just use it anyway and get some doughy, disgusting concoctions.  All part of the learning process, I suppose.  This may be how I ended up getting a bread machine, which I think was a birthday present from my parents the first year we got married- which was also the year I graduated college.

I struggled with the bread machine.  I could never get the loaf out of the pan smoothly, and the paddle in the bottom left a huge hole in the bread.  It was an awkwardly shaped pan.  Most often I used it for dough, either pizza/breadsticks or cinnamon rolls.  This has, by the way, created or at least encouraged a monster in my husband. 

So something about having a full-size kitchen again has awakened a desire to cook and bake.  My daughters have taken over all cookie-baking, so here I am, baking bread.  I still usually make gluten-free breads for my little kids from mixes because I don't want to mess up and waste such expensive ingredients, but I am working on it.  I started making sandwich bread for fun but also to avoid the vilified high fructose corn syrup and basically because it seems "homey" to me.  Everyone loves the smell of bread baking.  The down side is that at least half a loaf of the fresh bread frequently disappears before it even cools completely.

Here's my favorite recipe that has worked successfully lately (out of the cookbook that came with the mixer, btw):

Honey Oatmeal Bread
1 1/2 c. water
1/2 c. honey
1/3 c. margarine or butter
5 1/2 to 6 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 c. quick-cooking oats
2 tsps. salt
2 packages active dry yeast ( I use jarred Fleishman's, 4 1/2 tsps.)
2 eggs
1 egg white
1 Tbsp. water

These instructions are my "version" of what's written in my cookbook.  Preheat your oven to the lowest temp it will go to or "warm."  Mine goes to 170.  When it's warm, turn it off.  Melt butter in a bowl for about 30 seconds in the microwave, add honey and water, and microwave another 30 seconds.  If you can use a candy thermometer, check for it to be about 120 or 130 degrees.  In large mixing bowl , place 5 cups of the flour, the oatmeal, the salt and the yeast (I do not recommend doing this in anything smaller than my mixer, or with a handmixer unless it is really something special.)  Stir up that dry mix, then add warm milk mixture and eggs, mixing constantly.  Add another 1- 1 1/2 cups flour half a cup at a time until the dough become smooth and elastic or clings to the hook and cleans the side of the bowl.

Grease a clean glass mixing bowl and put the dough in it.  Turn the dough over so that the surface is coated with oil.  Cover with plastic wrap or foil and put it in that nice warm oven.  Let it rise about an hour or until it doubles. 

Punch it down, plop it out on a floured surface and cut it in half.  Roll each half out to about 8 x 14 inches. Roll up on the short side, pinch the seam closed, roll the ends under if it is too long,and put in in a greased loaf pan.  Let rise in the oven again for about an hour, covered with a dishtowel. 

When risen, take them out and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.  If using metal pans turn the oven down 25 degrees.  In a small bowl, beat the egg white and Tablespoon of water in a small bowl or cup, and brush the risen loaves.  Sprinkle with oatmeal.  Cover loosely with aluminum foil and bake in the preheated oven for 40 minutes.  Cool on wire racks for 10 minutes, then loosen with butter knife and turn out to cool completely.  Do not wrap up until completely cool.

For Cinnamon buns, I highly recommend going to and searching the words "Clone of a Cinnabon."  (Caution:  makes a Huge amount!  Do this when friends are coming over!)

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Birthday Blog- The Sleeping Giant

 Yep, 13 years ago today I was bigger than a house, waddled into the front entrance of the hospital at 6:00a.m.with my pants dripping wet from amniotic fluid, and was sent to...Ultrasound!
Once it was straightened out that I no longer needed the non-stress test that had been scheduled because she was a week overdue, I got my wheelchair ride to labor and delivery.
15 hours later she finally popped out, nearly knocking the pregnant obstetrician off of her stool and eliciting comments like, "Oh, what a big baby!" from the nurses (she was 10lbs 3.4oz and 21 inches or so).  It was one week past her due date and about a month since Daddy graduated from college and enjoyed a two week tour of England.

Since the delivery room, she has been letting everyone know what her preferences are.  Before we even brought her home from the NH hospital, I was bouncing her around the room, her head tucked into my right elbow, at a certain rhythm.  For months, everyone who held her would find themselves jouncing just that way within minutes.  It was good for the thighs, at least.

Whoever started the campaign to "Never Shake a Baby" never met this one!

Another thing she wanted early on was a plug.  I had an experienced maternity nurse tell me, "I never tell a nursing mother to give her baby a pacifier, but your baby really needs one!"  I thought plugs were disgusting so I ignored this sage advice until two months later, when we were on our way to Illinois from New Hampshire in a moving van, and she would not ride quietly.  You can't nurse in a moving truck!  And you can't get all the way to Illinois with a baby crying the entire time!  So I dug into the bottom of my big, green bag, found a tiny pink-and-white plug, and popped it in.  Mom, Dad and baby all breathed a sigh of relief!!

Another thing she demanded right from the start was to be upright.  She hated, hated, hated the infant car seat, the crib, a blanket on the floor, and just about any other position.
She slept well twice in her first 10months.  The first time was at my sister's wedding, where I was a bridesmaid.  The second was on the 4th of July, when we had fireworks right outside our apartment window (the best in New Hampshire!)  My theory is that she was hiding from all the loud noises associated with both events, so the sleep was some kind of defense mechanism.  If I had realized this at the time, my apartment would have gotten pretty noisy!

She attended graduate school before preschool, being brought along to as many of my classes as I could manage while I pursued my Master's Degree.   She was perfectly happy with this and many students enjoyed her as a mascot.  It even worked for me to bring a pack-n-play to class and set it up in the back of the room.  She pulled herself upright at about 7 months and stayed there so long we thought she would skip crawling altogether, but Daddy finally lured her into it with a Cheerio one night when she was 9 months old.  Walking came at almost exactly a year.  At 18 months old, graduate school was over and she became a big sister. 

We thought they made a pretty good matched set.

We moved back to NY right after that, and she discovered chocolate.
She became a big sister again in 2003...

And again in 2007.

Other milestones include her Baptism in 2005.  She had been dedicated at our church in Illinois at about 10 months of age, when her grandparents were visiting.  When she asked to be baptized at age 7, we didn't hold her back.  Tomorrow, if you are reading this on her birthday, she will be confirmed at the same church where she was baptized. I am happy that she is taking this opportunity to re-affirm her faith, but I also believe that the Christian life usually calls for dozens of these re-affirmations, not all of which will be marked by a ceremony.  If at some point she chooses a full-grown adult baptism, we'd be pleased with that. 

Where did the Title "Fearsome Sleeping Giant" come from?  Oddly enough, considering all her reluctance to sleep at the beginning of her life, she likes it well enough now!  We had her tonsils taken out in the 1st grade, which reduced her apnea and helped her to sleep better.  She's still a very restless sleeper though, talking, flailing and once even whistling in her sleep.  It took a great deal of training (read: misery) to help her learn to fall asleep alone and stay in her room at night.  So when sleep is hard-won, the sleeper doesn't love to get up in the morning.  And Giant?  Well, our big baby stayed big.  She's just over 5'7" and I don't think she has stopped growing yet, and that's taller than I am.  But the name started with a friend of her brother's came over (he was 5), and had a hard time distinguishing which sister he was talking about. He apparently settled on baby sister, big sister, and giant sister.  We discovered this when I threw away a broken shoe of hers.  He saw it in the trash and reported, in a concerned voice "...your giant sister's shoe is in the trash!"

More recently, her hobbies have included reading, biking, hiding from my camera, and the occasional jog.  She takes HapKiDo, and pays for the lessons herself.  To do this, she bakes cookies...a lot of them...and very good ones, too.  She mows lawns and will do other odd jobs.  She babysits The Princess on occasion, and is looking forward to a busy summer of rec programs.  In 2009, she visited Central Asia with her Dad, and eagerly looks forward to going back to stay.

The news that I am now the mother of a teenager doesn't bother me too much.  After all, I saw it coming.  I've known since she was that strong-willed baby that this wasn't going to be easy, but when is it ever?  With much patience, prayer, and wisdom, I know I will have to choose my battles.  That same stubbornness that made everyone bounce her just *that* way when she was a newborn baby will probably serve her well on many occasions. She has her mother and Nana's sensible, practical view of life that tends to keep one out of trouble, and so far she believes me that boys and make-up are for much, much later.  Now, if I can convince the boys..

Some things to look forward to in 2011:  joining Facebook, homeschool co-op, and finally losing those stubborn baby teeth, whether by nature or dentist.  We're going to try an on-line co-op this year in addition to the local Friday co-op.  She has really enjoyed staying in place long enough this year to make some friends at church, so I will add deeper friendships to the list of things to look forward to.  And of course a closer walk with God, because it's always a good time for that. What else?  Probably some stuff we can't plan for.  Can't wait to see what's in store.  No, really.