Category Archives: Free stuff

Thirty-six weeks. Birth and baby preparations.

I’m 36 weeks pregnant today.

That’s rather a milestone, because Arizona law only “officially” allows home births between 36-42 weeks.  So, I’m IN!!

In general, I’m not feeling miserable.  Well, I kind of am…  And part of me thinks that must be my age (I’ll be 40 next month!), but another part of me well-remembers the last weeks of pregnancy with my first, at age almost-24, and I think that, perhaps, I was even MORE miserable than I am now.  So, I can’t blame it on age.  Really, I just don’t enjoy pregnancy.  My body resists it, and all the more so as the birth approaches.

I do enjoy the birth itself — so satisfying, so joyful! — and I adore having a newborn.

I’m not going to have a water birth.

It’s kind of funny, because with most of the home birth pics I see — like on the ever-encouraging Birth Without Fear — inevitably, they’re of a vernix-coated brand-newborn being pulled straight from the water into the mother’s waiting hands.  And I just don’t… want that.  I don’t know why, exactly.  I just don’t.  Every time I’ve had the opportunity to labor in a tub — with all but one of my five previous births — I have gladly done so.  And I do envision myself in labor in my swimming pool and in a bathtub here in my home.  But, birthing in the water?  I just don’t want to.  Part of me feels like I should have a birthing pool on hand, just in case.  But, I have successfully, joyfully birthed five children while NOT in the water, and I think I’d feel a lot more comfortable doing the same with baby #6.  I don’t like the feeling of NOT feeling… grounded while in the water.  My midwife and her assistant (who is a friend of mine — a doula training to be a midwife) assures me that, with a rebozo (basically just a long, cotton shawl), they could wrap/loop it around me in such a way that I wouldn’t feel like I was floating away.  But that makes me feel even more twitchy — having fabric looped all around my body and two women holding it while I push out a baby.  I don’t want that… much touching me.  And I’m just not a fan of plastic touching me, either.  A rented pool is a blow-up plastic pool with a thin plastic liner.  Not a fan of the plastic-to-skin sensation.  No, thank you.

Plus, the pool rental is another $100 that I’d rather not spend, and my husband is worried about the second story of our home successfully supporting that much weight — and WET weight, at that — in the corner of our bedroom.

So, a birth pool is out.

For other baby-preparations…

Friends have POURED out love and blessing and baby stuff on us.  I’ve received:

  • A gorgeous crib.  (Actually, two of them.  I’m going to give one away.)
  • The first six months of clothing — really, really nice clothing from a friend whose baby girl was born in August of last year.  She works for a mall development company and I’m confident she spends WAY more time shopping at WAY nicer stores than me…  Plus, she has two boys and her family was thrilled that she had a baby girl, and of course, everyone gave clothes.  And she has passed them all down to me.  And we’re going to meet up soon and she’s going to give me a Boppy (which I love), a breast pump, and some other items, too.
  • A really nice car seat.
  • A bouncy seat.
  • Baby toys.
  • A play pen.
  • Some cloth diapering supplies.
  • Some baby linens — like bath towels and blankets.

The bassinet bumper is made from this cloth, edged in the chocolate brown of the leaves and stems, and tied with yellow grosgrain ribbon.

I already owned a nice, big, rocking, oak bassinet.  I purchased it second-hand when Fiala (who is now 4.5 years old) was not yet born, and it has been making the rounds, so to speak, ever since.  I’m kicking myself for not having all the mothers who have borrowed it write their baby’s names in pencil with the dates the bassinet was used.  I think the count is at seven.  Seven babies who have slept in that bassinet between the birth of my four-year-old and this new baby.  I think that is such a rich, sweet history.  And now, the bassinet has come back to me from the most recent baby (born in November) who had it…  Along with the bumper I made for a friend who used it for HER little girl, who will be four in August.  It’s still in great shape, still super-cute.

All I have purchased are:

  • More cloth diapering stuff.
  • A pail liner for said cloth diapers.
  • Another wet bag (a friend already gave me one) for cloth diapers on-the-go.
  • A diaper bag.
  • A Moby wrap.

And with all of that, I have spent less than $200.

For diapers, I have purchased all-in-ones, pocket-diapers, prefolds, diaper covers…  I have nearly enough diapers and supplies to last from newborn until potty-training.  Craigslist is a GREAT source for cloth diapers.  Thankfully, cloth diapering is quite trendy right now.  However, countless mothers have spent HUNDREDS of dollars on pricey, new cloth diapers, tried it for a week or two, and freaked out and decided to stop cloth diapering.  Then, they offer their nearly-new stash on Craigslist for 10-50% the cost of new.  And I come in and scoop everything up, happily.  🙂  There are also die-hard cloth diapering moms who keep meticulous care of their cloth diaper supplies and have great items to sell — even if they’re older — that have been so well-cared-for that they’re worth buying.  I’ve also purchased a number of diapering items from eBay.  I’m still bidding on some more infant-sized prefolds…  And I still need a few additional items, but I’ll still probably end up spending just under $200.

And that’s even with my pricey diaper bag.

NOTE:  I am so NOT trendy.  I’m really not.  I have zero interest in being a stylish, hot mom who uses her baby as a public indication of her ability to spend loads of money on the best, most expensive brands.

So, on one hand, I’m kind of embarrassed about my Petunia Pickle Bottom diaper bag.  This brand, in “touring” style I purchased, retails for around $150.  Discontinued fabrics — such as the one I purchased — can be found for $75-105, typically.  That just seems so, so, so pricey.  Like, ridiculously so.

Darling.  The colors.  The birds.  The fact that it’s real, woven houndstooth.  I love it.

On the other hand, I absolutely ADORE my new diaper bag.  I adore it.  I can’t wait until it arrives.   I bought it used, for about $40, and I literally cried with joy.  Though it is a fraction of the cost of a new bag, it still seems crazy-expensive to me.  But, once I saw that diaper bag…  I just felt like I had to have it.  Me, the immensely practical, pragmatic, penny-pinching mother of almost-six, “had to have” a $40 diaper bag.  And I was willing to spend more!  Ack!!

I consoled myself that I had been so frugal with my other purchases, and overall, have spent so little for this baby, that the $40 was justifiable.  😀  It’s my one baby-splurge.

So… with me now being 36 weeks, and with procuring — in one way or another — almost all of my baby supplies, I’m feeling almost-ready for the baby to come.  She could come any day and we’d at least not be in a panic, though everything is not quite ready…

 

 

JUST GROW IT!!! Big Seed Giveaway from Botanical Interests

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SEED GIVEAWAY NOW CLOSED TO ENTRIES!!!!

I have deleted all the non-entry comments so as to get a more accurate count of the entries…  Just a note:  I tried to contact most folks who put all their entries in one comment to ask them to return and create multiple comments — one comment for each entry, as per the rules.  If I wasn’t able to contact you, I’m sorry!!  All winners chosen through a random number generator (from http://www.random.org).  Oldest entry is #1, newest is #323.  First selected gets first choice.  I will post both on my Facebook page and on here as I select winners.

  1. The first winner is comment #64, Melissa K!! The entry that won it was for her subscribing to the Botanical Interests newsletter. She wanted the Can You Dig It? Children’s Gardening Kit for she and her children to use in their new home! (The kit was by far the #1 choice of winners!)
  2. The second winner is comment #173, Vickie!  She said that she would like the Can You Dig It? kit as well, which was the choice of the first winner… So I have sent an e-mail out to Vickie asking her what her second choice would be.
  3. The third winner is comment #165, Cindy in GA.  She also wanted the children’s kit.  After Vickie (winner #2) chooses, Cindy will get her choice of the remaining prizes.
  4. The fourth winner is comment #303, Alex.  Alex will get whichever prize remains after Vickie and Cindy have chosen!

I WANT YOU TO GROW THINGS.

I want you to try your hand at gardening, even if gardening means putting a few seeds into a windowsill pot and hoping they sprout.

I have found that most people, when they find I love gardening, say something like, “I’ve always wanted to do that…”  Or, “My mother had such an amazing garden.  I wish I could…”

There are so many rewards to gardening!!  I dearly want to help you overcome the typical reasons I’ve encountered for not gardening, like…

  • Not enough space.
  • Intimidated by lack of experience.
  • “I don’t have anyone to teach me!”
  • “I know a lot of people who have tried to garden and failed.”
  • Not enough time.
  • Not enough money to invest into a garden.
  • It just seems like a huge hassle…

Honestly, I’ve had to battle my own gardening challenges and disappointments.  The home into which we moved, July 2012, has ample space for a really big garden, but we decided to prioritize remodeling the indoors before we tackle the yard.  We live on nearly half an acre, but as I recently blogged, it takes a LOT of work to prepare the soil to grow things, here in the Phoenix area.  You can’t just scatter seed and expect it to do something.

So, for the time being, I’ve resorted to container gardening.  I have some raised boxes that are currently growing some veggies and herbs, and some containers that are waiting for my indoor starts to be ready to transplant.  This almost doesn’t feel like “real” gardening to me, when my previous garden looked like this:

Garden on 69th Lane

My old garden…. I miss it…

But…  I am often encouraging friends to just grow SOMETHING.  Just try.

I want to equip you to try your hand at growing something.

I was recently thinking about how much I love Botanical Interests.  They’re a seed company whose home is just outside of Denver, Colorado.

  • They’re family-owned.
  • All of their seeds are non-GMO.
  • Many of their seeds are organic.
  • Many of their seeds are heirloom (Meaning you can collect, save, and re-plant the seeds from the veggies you grew from the originally-purchased seeds.  With hybrids, this is not possible.  Being the cheapskate that I am, I save as many seeds as I can, though I have much to learn about seed-saving!!)
  • I love that I can find Botanical Interests’ seeds locally.
  • They have fabulous customer service.
  • The art on their seed packets is gorgeous.
  • The information on their seed packets is second-to-none:  It is detailed, helpful, and educational.
  • I love that their seeds are reasonably priced, even the organic ones.

Having a wee bit of a brainstorm after not winning this giveaway, I thought that perhaps Botanical Interests would sponsor a seed giveaway on MY blog.  Happily, they quickly agreed!  In fact, they agreed to a BIG seed giveaway!!

There are FOUR separate prizes which will go to four winners and TEN ways you can enter.  Yes, you can enter ten separate times.  But, you can only win one prize.

First, the prizes (click on the titles for more information from Botanical Interests):

  1. Can You Dig It?  Children’s Gardening Kit.  This retails for $29.99 and is a package that includes a colorfully illustrated instruction book, garden supply list, planting map, horticultural glossary, a reusable harvesting bag and garden markers.  The seed packets included in this collection are:  Carrot Baby Little Finger, Tomato Cherry Gardener’s Delight, Lettuce Butterhead Tom Thumb, Bean Bush Blue Lake 274, Radish Cherry Belle, and Marigold Dwarf Lemon Drop.  This would be perfect for a homeschooling project, a weekend family project, or as a project to do with your preschoolers!  You and your children can learn together!!

    Can You Dig It? Kit

    Can You Dig It? Kit

  2. Water-Wise Flower Mix Two large packets of seeds, enough to cover a total of about 500 square feet with water-wise color, both annuals and perennials.  It contains a mix of 20 different flowers like Arroyo Lupine, Sulphur Cosmos, Orange California Poppy, Moss Verbena, and Pink Evening Primrose.  Retail value:  $9.98.

    Water-Wise Mix

    Water-Wise Mix

  3. Container Vegetable Seed Collection This collection retails for $15.00 and contains eight packets of seed, all selected to grow well in containers or other small spaces.  Included are:  Carrot Tonda di Parigi, Cucumber Spacemaster, Kale Dwarf Blue Curled, Lettuce Mesclun Farmer’s Market Blend, Onion Bunching/Scallion Tokyo Long White, Pepper Sweet Cherry Blend, Spinach Lavewa, and Tomato Bush Better Bush.

    Container Vegetable Collection (and yes, it comes in the cute, beribboned box)

    Container Vegetable Collection (and yes, it comes in the cute, beribboned box)

  4. Karen’s Selection for February-March planting in the Phoenix area.  With a (small bit of) knowledge of what is likely to grow well in the Sonoran Desert, and using the reliable, indispensable University of Arizona Vegetable Planting Calendar for Maricopa County, I have personally selected a eleven varieties that are perfect for late-February and/or March planting.  Of course, you don’t have to be in the desert to plant these gems, but the seeds, some good compost, some water, and the spring Arizona sunshine should net you some great veggies in a couple of months, right about the time that most people in cooler climates are starting to plant!  Nine of the the eleven varieties can be direct-seeded:  You plant them directly into the soil of your garden;  no need for starting them indoors.  Included in this package are:  Organic Greek Yevani Basil, Heirloom Pencil Pod Yellow bush beans, Organic Heirloom Gourmet Blend beets, Heirloom White Stem bok choy, Spacemaster cucumbers, Organic Heirloom Hearts of Gold cantaloupe, Heirloom Tokyo Long White green onions (scallions), Organic Heirloom Early Jalapeno peppers, Organic Heirloom Cherry Belle radish, Heirloom Tatuma Calabacita summer squash, and Organic Heirloom Italian Roma tomatoes.  (Approximate retail value $23.00.)

    Tatuma Calabacita -- this WILL become your new favorite summer squash.

    Tatuma Calabacita — this WILL become your new favorite summer squash.

Now… here are the TEN DIFFERENT WAYS YOU CAN ENTER!  Please leave ONE comment for each entry.  Yes, that means you may end up leaving a whole bunch of comments.  That’s OK.  There is no maximum number of times to enter;  I would be tickled if you did every single thing on the list.  Also, if the entry requires you to take some action, do it BEFORE you comment.  In each comment, tell me what you did.

  1. Post a comment below telling me which prize you’d most like to win, and why.
  2. Like Only Sometimes Clever on Facebook.
  3. Like Botanical Interests on Facebook.
  4. Post a link to this contest on your personal Facebook profile.  (Shortlink:  http://wp.me/p1wkS-Z2)
  5. Post a link to this contest on your Facebook page — other than your personal profile (for instance, if you own a company, or have a blog, or moderate a group that has its own Facebook page).
  6. Post a link to this contest on Pinterest.
  7. Write a little blurb and include a link on your personal blog.
  8. Send out a Tweet promoting this contest with a link.
  9. Download a PDF catalog or request a print catalog from Botanical Interests.
  10. Subscribe to Botanical Interests’ eNewsletter.  (Enter your e-mail address in the box on the right-hand side of Botanical Interests’ home page.)

Contest ends at midnight, Mountain Standard Time, on Wednesday, February 13, 2013.
Four winners will be selected at random on Thursday, February 14.  I will contact the winners by e-mail, so make sure you include a valid e-mail in your comment registration.  First selected will have first choice, second will have second, and so on.
If winners do not respond within three days, I will select a new winner (or winners) at my discretion.  All prizes will be awarded.
Giveaway open to legal United States residents aged 18 and over.
Odds of winning depend on how many entries are received.
Winners agree to have their first names and locations published here on Only Sometimes Clever.
This contest is being sponsored by Botanical Interests, and the prizes provided by their generosity.  However, I am not being compensated for this in any way!!  It really is because I want you to GROW SOMETHING!!!

Sponsored by Botanical Interests, Inc.  660 Compton St., Broomfield, Colorado, 80020

First family photo in… I don’t know how long. Plus, really rad friends.

So, our family vacation was supposed to be “just” a stay in a little cottage in walking distance to the beach.  One can’t quite call it a “beach cottage”, because it’s not right on the water, but we did find the six-block walk quite reasonable, especially on the downhill side, on the way to the ocean.

In our fifteen years of being a family — that is, taking trips with children included — that in itself was going to be our most expensive trip ever.  We usually camp.  Or stay with family.  Or rent an el-cheapo U.S. Forest Service cabin (often without electricity or even running water!).  At most, we stay a night on the outbound side and a night on the inbound side in some inexpensive accommodation.  We have never ever taken a trip where our entire stay was in an actual building with a roof, creature comforts inside, for which we had paid.

Why?

Because we’re cheap.

We’d rather spend ten days camping for half the price of three days in a hotel.

Plus, I rather like camping.

However…  I knew this year was going to be different, because we planned a move for this summer.  Camping takes a LOT of work — both prep work, and work during the event — and a lot of equipment.  I knew that I wasn’t going to have the time or energy for a camping trip.

So, we decided to spring for the aforementioned cottage.  We decided that it would be quite dreamy to go for an entire week with nothing on the agenda but the pounding surf and some warm sunshine.

We had to move the timing of our summer vacation, as the bank picked a closing date smack-dab in the middle of our previously-scheduled trip.  We purchased a short sale, and there was no wiggle room for changing the closing date.  So, we had to change the timing of our vacation.

It worked out for the best, as most everyone else is done with their summer travel, the first week of September.  So, the beach was less crowded.

So was Disneyland, the Wednesday after Labor Day.

What??  Disneyland???  That wasn’t in the plans.  Too much money, by FAR.  None of our five children had ever been, for reasons similar to the reasons for camping:  You can get a lot more bang for your buck if you aren’t plunking down $80+ for each person just to step into some magical kingdom…

But, dear friends of ours — in the shocker of the decade — teamed up to purchase tickets for our entire family of seven, which they delivered to us the night before our departure.

They gave us clues, which NONE of us guessed;  it went entirely over my head that the little gifts they gave were part of a bigger package.

  1. A stick, with an attached tag that said, “In case you find a dog.”
  2. A bag of bread cubes, whose note read, “In case you want to feed a duck.”
  3. A package of motion sickness tabs with a tag, “In case you go on a wild ride.”
  4. A small first-aid pack, “In case you get blisters from lots of walking on your adventure.”
  5. A pair of mouse traps, “In case you find some mice.”

In retrospect, it seems rather obvious.  But at the time, I was torn between thinking, “How thoughtful of them to come up with such fun ideas!” and, “MOUSE TRAPS????  I know we’re cheap, but what kind of place do they think we’re staying in???”  And then I tried to edit my thoughts to rid that last sentence of its dangling participle.  Had I not been so wrapped up in that pointless exercise, I might have realized what was happening BEFORE the tickets came out…

DUH.

We decided to go on Wednesday, because we thought there would be less of a crowd, mid-week, directly after a major holiday.  That meant shorter hours in the park and no firework show, but we decided the trade-off would be worth it.

We were right.  We rocked the joint, arriving as the gates opened at 10 a.m., and happily staying until closing time at 8 p.m.  And, everyone still had a smile on their face and a spring in their step.

We thought we’d have to split up, with my husband Martin taking the three older boys, and me taking the two girls on the “baby” rides, as we thought our youngest, Fiala, would surely be too small for most of the main attractions.  NOPE.  She is 41″, and most of the rides require riders to be 40″.  So, she went on Space Mountain, Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Splash Mountain, Pirates of the Caribbean…  All of them, except Matterhorn, for which she was too small.  She also wouldn’t have been able to go on Indiana Jones Adventure, but that was closed for refurbishment, so it was moot.

We went on virtually every ride in the park, from the Carousel and It’s a Small World to Autopia and Star Tours.  The longest line was at the submarine ride;  it was a 20 minute wait.  Everything else was 5-10 minutes, some even less!

And the boys — even our 15-year-old, Ethan — were such good sports, going on all the small rides — like Dumbo and Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride — as well.  We didn’t have to split up at all.

Even the weather was perfect:  Mostly overcast, almost cool, with a smattering of sprinkles…

Our friends gave us cash to spend inside, too, and that covered:  parking, stroller rental, and lunch.  In the future, rather than dropping more than $100 on one stinkin’ meal (a good meal, but, still…), if we ever get to go again, I think we’ll take advantage of the picnic area just outside the gates.  I was rather morally outraged to spend nearly a week’s worth of groceries on one meal, and there’s no way we would have done it, had we not been gifted the money… and we knew the giver would actually want us to spend it, not hoard it.  🙂

Other than the cost of that meal, the occasion really was absolutely ideal.

All of us, plus Goofy (how apropos!). It has literally been more than a year since all seven of us were captured in one shot.

Audrey’s just a little bit happy.

So was Wesley.

My sense of propriety was a teensy bit challenged by my husband hopping ON TOP of the entire Sword in the Stone… Ha!

Rabbit ears in honor of the rabbit house.

Ethan on the top deck of the Mark Twain steamboat.

Audrey and Fiala even got to go on-stage and sing “Bear Necessities” during the Big Thunder Ranch Roundup with “Miss Chris”.  Fi doesn’t look too happy, but truly, they had such fun!

Grant with the Mad Hatter.

It’s a Small World was Fiala’s favorite ride because, “It’s so happy and pretty, and there is nothing scary!”

In Toontown.

On our way out, on Main Street, with the camera sitting on top of a trash bin. Everyone still happy at the end of the day, but sad to leave.  Most all with those evil red eyes, and I look slightly pregnant, but really, I’m not. 

I kept thinking that the whole thing was blessed by God;  in a way, the whole visit was “charmed.”  No wait, excellent weather, happy and kind attitudes from everyone, all day long, no one got hurt — not even a blister!  We just couldn’t have asked for anything better.

The only bad thing is that we have opened Pandora’s Box.  Well, not really.  But, prior to this, Fiala had never even heard of Disneyland.  Audrey had heard of it, from friends going, but didn’t know what it was.  When our dear friends came with the gifts, Fiala had a stranglehold on the bag of bread cubes, thinking that was the big gift, having no concept of this “Disneyland” of which everyone was chattering excitedly…  I had to sit her (and Audrey) down at the computer and show her pictures and little video clips and say, “THAT is where we’re going.”

That gave me a little window into how the Father must view us, in regards to Heaven:  We’re hanging on for dear life for the little gifts He’s given us, thinking that must be the pinnacle, with absolutely no grid, no revelation, of what the real gift — the real destination — might be….  I must say, I’ve never really longed for Heaven.  I tend not to dwell on things that are impossible for me to wrap my mind around.  But, just as this trip to Disneyland opened up the eyes of two little girls into the possibilities of wonder, fun, and amazement, it has put a little glimmer of hope, a little glimpse into what might await us as His beloved children.

And may you be blessed with friends who give thoughtfully, extravagantly, with rich kindness and blessing.

Sheltered foodies

In some ways, the clichéd accusation is true:  my homeschooled children are sheltered.  Two events happened in the last 24 hours, though, that made me chuckle while thinking, “Being sheltered isn’t such a bad thing.”

  1. Yesterday, I took the five children to the Prescott area, about an hour and a half north of here.  Among other things, we picked up my nephew and went to Costco.  So, I had six children, ages 3 – 16, in the store with me, and everyone was fabulous.  I was so pleased with how smoothly everything was going, and wanted to bless them.  So, I decided that everyone could have a frozen yogurt or a berry smoothie.  Oh, I laughed as my children inadvertently reminded me how infrequently we do this sort of thing — both because of cost, the sugar, and because who knows what’s in “yogurt” at Costco??  I usually avoid that sort of stuff like the plague.  But, this was a special occasion.  “Chocolate, vanilla, or swirl?” I asked each child.  “What’s swirl?” replied two of them — my six-year-old, Audrey, and my 15-year-old, Ethan.  Swirl.  They didn’t know what swirl was.  Adding to Audrey’s confusion was the whole topic of “yogurt.”  She is familiar with plain, whole milk yogurt, which she very often has for/with her breakfast.  “Yogurt can be ice cream??” she marveled.  Once we got it sorted out what swirl and frozen yogurt was, we could proceed.  Ethan and Audrey both decided to try this novelty of an idea:  swirl.  I had chocolate and gave Fiala (my three-year-old, who has almost kicked a systemic, REALLY BAD candida albicans yeast infection) six little bites.  Everyone else chowed down, and by the end, two of my children were saying it was too sweet and they had a stomach ache.  Ha!  It was a learning experience for all of us, and a really good ~$8.50 spent.
  2. Yesterday, we also received a package from Riega Foods for us to review*.  Now, this isn’t the official review, but I had to share:  I wanted to finish cleaning bathrooms before getting lunch ready, and the clock was ticking, especially since I sat down after being 80% done and chatted with my sister for a half-hour on the phone, which I absolutely do not regret.  😀  My oldest, Ethan, was especially interested in the cheese sauce mixes, and asked if he could make some macaroni and cheese for lunch.  I thought this might be a good idea, especially since my dairy-free child is gone at a friend’s house for the day.  Well, we didn’t quite have enough of the right sort of gluten-free noodles to make a whole meal of it, but I decided that he could work on that to be a “lunch snack” while I finished cleaning the bathrooms.  Now, you need to understand something:  Ethan is my sous chef.  He is a great hand at food prep:  washing, chopping, slicing, stirring, flipping, mixing, pretty much anything I need him to do at the cutting board and the stove top.  Very often, I’m the brains behind making a meal, and he’s the brawn, doing a good portion of the actual work.  So, it’s not like he’s inexperienced in the kitchen.  However…  he continued to come to me to ask me a question or two or three about the process of making what is the (almost) natural equivalent of Kraft Mac & Cheese — powdered mix combined with ¼ cup milk and a couple of tablespoons of butter.  I was partly annoyed that he was having difficulty with such a simple kitchen task when it dawned on me, “He has very little experience following the directions on a package!!!”  We make virtually everything from scratch, and I can’t remember the last time a “cheese sauce mix” was in our home!!  He’s more accustomed to, “Slice these ¼-inch thick and sauté them in butter.”  I finally had to stop what I was doing, and go over in great detail how to make boxed pasta.  I also completely abandoned my annoyance, and was amused and rather pleased that, in his fifteen years of life on this planet, he has virtually no experience with “cheese sauce”.

————

*Stay tuned for a whole review and a giveaway!!!!

Thus ends the most French-filled blog post I think I’ve ever written.

You can’t afford a baby.

Please read this post, a short-but-slightly-snarky response to Suze Orman, a financial adviser who recently told a couple that they couldn’t afford a baby, with its $700-1000 monthly expense.

I agree wholeheartedly with Connie, the author.

Having a baby in America CAN be expensive, but it doesn’t need to be.  I’ll never forget when I told a former neighbor that I was pregnant with my third and she sighed and said, “You’re so lucky.  I’d love a baby, but we just can’t afford it.”  It was all I could do to not let my jaw hit the sidewalk.  She and her husband lived — by themselves — in a 2500 s.f. house, had an RV, brand new vehicles, two ATVs, two Jet-skis, expensive mountain bikes, and who knows what else.  In other words, they could totally “afford” a baby if they got their priorities straight.  AND, yes:  it can be difficult and expensive if you have to have everything new and fancy and trendy, bottle feed, use childcare for when you go back to work at 6 weeks, and use disposable diapers.  But, heck.  Even name brand disposables will run you about $40-60/month.  NOT $700-1000.

Maybe this is inflammatory, but I also believe our American culture which values independence over community is partially to blame.  We’re disconnected from our extended families, we don’t root ourselves in a church family either, and we value income and material wealth over family.  Even things like baby showers and hand-me-downs are most often provided by our extended community, which we as Americans have less and less of.

Don't YOU need a $5768.89 crib??

I have a wooden cradle that is “making the rounds” between friends from church.  This DELIGHTS me.  I bought it for $40 from Craigslist, used it for my fifth baby (as I had given away a previous cradle), and now a third friend is about to use it for her her newborn, due in Feb. But, if you have to keep up with the Jones’ baby who had a $2,000 Bellini crib (or this $5,800 one!), you’re going to have a pricey infancy.  However, if you breastfeed, raise your own child, and don’t mind having used or hand-me-down things, it’s really quite inexpensive to raise a baby.

EDITED TO ADD:  One other thing… (can you tell this has struck a nerve???) I’m not suggesting that selling baby things is wrong, but I have learned that you get back what you give — sometimes literally, sometimes from elsewhere.  I have given away cribs, strollers, swings, clothes, countless other baby items, partly because I saw someone in need, and partly because I thought I was “done” with having children.  But, whatddya know??  It has ALL COME BACK to me. I have, in return, been given cribs, clothes, toys, slings — I don’t use swings anymore! 😉 — everything I need for a baby, when I did have need.  My youngest is three and the goods still keep pouring in.  Someone just gave us three bags of virtually brand-new girls toys — voila! Christmas for my 3 and 5yo girls. Whether you call it karma or attribute it Luke 6:38, or whatever, if you give, you will receive.  We are a panicked, hoarding society, and often fail to recognize that if we are generous, we’re going to be provided for.

More garden stuff, including a little seed giveaway… (plus, any takers for an online/e-mail natural birthing class??)

I promise that there is more of note going on in my life than just my garden, but since I have such a nice pic, I thought I’d post another garden update.

One other thing I wanted to mention, though (buried, here in the garden post) is that I’m thinking about making my birthing class notes available as an online/correspondence/something-like-that birth class.  Anyone interested?  I can e-mail you the PDF of the first class (of six, total) as a preview.  I would send copies of each week’s class, one at a time.  I highly suggest that you take two weeks to go through each class’s material and homework, because there is a LOT of info!  And, for full disclosure, the classes are really geared to married Christian couples, but I’m thinking about editing them to be more appropriate for other… uh… demographics.  The basic idea of them is to show the wonder and amazing, kind plan of our Creator God in the process of birth — so that the mom would birth, filled with that wonder, and eager to participate fully in His transformational intentions for her… and that there would be NO FEAR in birth.  If anyone is interested, I will take on three student couples for $40 each, and you can help me work out any communication kinks that may need fixing.  Beta test, if you will.  🙂  ANYONE can have a free copy of the first class’s notes, though.  karenjoy@onlysometimesclever.com

OK.  Back to this day’s regularly scheduled garden post:

This was yesterday’s harvest:  Red chard, green beans (I found more hiding under the red chard after the picture), two dinky tomatoes, and two Dragon carrots.

The carrots would have benefited from another week or two in the ground.  The packet says that they should mature in 70-90 days, and they’ve been in the ground more than 120 days!!  Things grow more slowly in the winter growing season here… less sunlight.  But, sheesh!  Mature already!!  They’re lovely carrots, though.

My tomatoes are thriving.  I’ve harvested a dozen or so in the last couple weeks, though it doesn’t look like any will be red and ready for Thanksgiving.  😦  There are probably 200+ tomatoes growing on my plants, but the bad news is that they’re all about one ounce “big”.  Teeny tiny.  Bigger than cherry tomatoes, but not by much!  I bought my seeds from Native Seeds/SEARCH, which is a fabulous, to-be-esteemed organization for growing, promoting, and selling native and heirloom seeds that do well in the Arizona desert.  However, the Native Seeds’ description of my Punta Banda tomatoes neglected the mention the size, and I neglected to notice the lack of description.  Here, on another site, they’re listed as cherry tomatoes.

My basil plants just won’t die.  Not that I really want them to, but when I add basil to any dish I’m making, I must confess that I use my basil-and-olive-oil “ice cubes” from the freezer.

Fiala, my three-year-old, ran off with a packet of carrot seeds and a packet of onion seeds a few weeks ago.  It is now clear where she planted them, as there are about one hundred carrot sprouts in about a one square foot area of my garden, onions sprouting in the gravel (leading me to think about the parable of the sower), and a sprinkling of onions and carrots in other less-than-ideal spots.  🙂  Precious, rascally girl.

I hope my garlic has lovely, round, purple blooms like this!!

I have one Mexican grey squash plant that is hanging on…  Broccoli that is sprouting (not too vigorously, though, and I think the birds like the sprouts), green onions that are slowly but beautifully growing, mystery volunteer tomato plants that are starting to flower and bear new, tiny fruit…  I planted some garlic cloves, too, and they’re coming up beautifully.  I love garlic and we eat a TON, but I’m kind of planting them for their flowers.  My green beans (Yoeme Purple String Beans, to be exact) are still hanging on, though I’m only harvesting about 1/4 – 1/2 pound every week from four largeish bamboo teepees.  I have set aside 33 seeds that would be good for planting, and will give them to the first taker who mails me a self-addressed, stamped envelope, if you wanna give them a shot!  Again, e-mail if interested.

My tomatillos are fairly pointless.  I have 1/2 gallon of teeny tiny tomatillos in my fridge, waiting to see if I will make salsa out of them for Thanksgiving.  I guess I should take them out of the refrigerator and let the husks dry all the way…  I’m fairly disgusted with how much space those giant plants took up, compared to the tiny fruit.  😦  I started pruning the bushes WAY back, in hopes that the roots and stalks would super-charge the remaining tomatillos and make them grow big, but no such luck.  After Thanksgiving, I do believe I will just pull them out, amend the soil, and plant more broccoli, and maybe some cauli and rutabagas.

Now that I have a fruitful garden, I can’t imagine even NOT having one.  I pray I will continue to learn, and that my little plot of ground will continue to produce.

And, that’s it!  For today.

Happy Thanksgiving to all my American readers, if I get overwhelmed by cleaning and baking and cooking and don’t make it back to the blog before then.  🙂

Update: Homeschooling stuff

  •  Homeschooling:  Still having… issues keeping my 14yo focused and not overwhelmed.  What he feels he can do, and what he actually can do are miles apart.  He, without fail, produces well-thought-out, excellent work and I am spending lots of time encouraging him and spurring him on.  I think much of his internal conflict comes down to him longing for the “good old days” when he had less responsibility and his school day wasn’t quite as long — even though his entire day, including “homework” is at a maximum of six hours, and he often has days like yesterday, when he was done in four.  This past week, I had to take away both his iPod and his library books until he was caught up…  I really don’t like restricting his freedoms and pleasures;  I feel like he should be mature enough to self-regulate and that I shouldn’t have to do that.  I guess I still do, though.
  • More homeschooling:  I am sharing my Sonlight Core 3 (American History, Part I — recently renamed Core D) with a friend for her children, and I’m a few weeks ahead of her.  For some reason, I’m really motivated to stay ahead, and for that reason, we’re getting more done, and faster, than ever!  I guess I still have some latent competitiveness…
  • Click on image for a link to the original post by a lady named Linda, who describes planting a Mary garden, where all the plants are symbolic tributes to the Virgin Mary. Linda attributes this painting to Jan van Eyck, and I'm not really sure that's correct. However, notice the strawberries in the raised bed behind the Virgin and Child.

    Still more homeschooling:  We’ve almost wrapped up our (fairly slow) travels through the fabulous DK’s Children’s Book of Art.  I have been pondering where to go next, with art.  Then, after church on Sunday, a friend pulled me over with an almost conspiratorial whisper, “Hey, I’m helping my mom pare down the things in her home.  Are you interested in any books?”  She opened her trunk to reveal a nice, heavy box of assorted books — from a nice hardcover copy of Kipling’s Captains Courageous to a set of Time-Life books on the States, very similar to a set my own mother owns….  Also included was an intriguing book called Signs and Symbols in Christian Art by George Ferguson.  It was first published in 1959;  my hardcover copy appears to have been printed in England in 1967, though I am delighted to discover that the book is still in print!  I may have to get an additional book of color reprints of Renaissance paintings, though…  Most of this book is in black and white.  However, I have long been intrigued with the idea of art as… teacher and entertainer, especially in the days before there was widespread literacy.  Here’s what Ferguson has to say about strawberries:  “The strawberry is the symbol of perfect righteousness, or the emblem of the righteous man whose fruits are good works.  When shown with other fruits and flowers, it represents the good works of the righteous or the fruits of the spirit.  It is in line with this meaning that the Virgin is sometimes shown clad in a dress decorated with clusters of strawberries.  The strawberry is occasionally shown accompanied by violets to suggest that the truly spiritual are always humble.”  My plan is to read a little excerpt like that, then set my boys to hunting for an example.  I’m slow to notice and understand symbolism and allegory, etc., so I’m looking forward to reading this book!

  • Even more homeschooling:  I had also wanted an additional devotional book for my children — especially my 10 and 12-year-old sons.  Right now, we are using Sonlight’s book on American Indian Prayer Guide, as well as using GRN’s monthly prayer guide for its missionaries (we get a monthly newsletter mailed to us, but the link has the same info).  But, I wanted something a little more in-depth, engaging, and focused on character.  Voila!  Out of the same box from my friend’s mom came Courageous Christians:  Devotional Stories for Family Reading by Joyce Vollmer Brown.  PERFECT.  It has sixty stories of well-known and little-known Christians who acted boldly to make a difference for the cause of Christ.  So awesome to have our needs met, in such an unexpected way, and even before I really prayed about it!  I guess God knew these were the books for us…

Family outing on the cheap, plus thoughts on art, and a little kindergarten vanity.

On Labor Day, using the Culture Pass* I’d checked out on Friday, our family went to the Phoenix Art Museum, which I’d not visited for five years, and had missed.  Normal admission price for our family of seven would be $32.  ($10 for adults, $4 for children 6-17, free for children 5 and under.)  With the Culture Pass, we paid $12, as Martin and I were free.  Very do-able.  I packed a picnic lunch, which we ate outside in the very warm, dappled shade, next to a creepy sculpture-fountain of a woman “bleeding” water out of cut-up forearms.

When I was in college, I saw a woman wearing a tee that said, “Art Can’t Hurt You” and while part of me understands the sentiment, I actually don’t agree with that.  Art encompasses a wide range of experiences and emotions, including ones that hurt.  However, I don’t get weird about it.  We acknowledged to the little girls, “Yeah… that’s sad.  And creepy.  I wonder if the artist was sad?  It’s painful to look at, huh?”  and we just let it go at that.  Actually, the older boys were more creeped out than the girls, because I think they grasp the concept of mortality and emotional pain better than the 2- and 5-year-old girls.

Anyway.

The whole thing made for a cheap and VERY enjoyable outing.  I’m so glad my hubby was along;  his presence allowed us to stay a good five hours.  If it was just me and the five kids, I’d have been done after, oh, three hours or so.

I really don’t have very many pictures.  When I’m involved in something, I find that I rarely remember to document the process;  I’m too busy enjoying.

We headed first to the Western American Art exhibit, at my insistence.  I don’t consider myself a cowgirl — at all — but I love, love, love Western art.  My all-time favorite painting at the Phx Art Museum is Ed Mell‘s Sweeping Clouds.  Looking up Ed Mell, I just now discovered that I don’t care for all of his paintings, but I sure do love the one hanging in the corner of the PAM.  Western art in general, and that painting in particular, reminds me of the very best things about living in Arizona — dramatic scenery, a sense of solitude, unique aspects of nature, the vibrant colors of the desert, and the best skyscapes of ANYWHERE….

Not my pic. I'll admit, I stole it from a Russian website and am now uploading it here. I didn't want to link to that site, because it seemed a little fishy.

Other highlights included the installation of Yayoi Kusama’s You Who Are Getting Obliterated in the Dancing Swarm of Fireflies which is essentially a dark, mirrored room, about 20′ square, with a reflective floor and ceiling, and thousands of computer-programmed LED lights of varying colors hung at all heights.  It’s kind of hard to find your way in, orient yourself, and then find your way out again.  It doesn’t sound like something I’d enjoy, but I LOVED it.  So did all the kids, especially Fiala.  We went through it probably five times or more… probably spent a good 30 minutes total in that little room.  It was what the best installations are:  Unique, an experience, a wee bit unsettling, but also thoroughly enjoyable.

In the kids’ art room, the girls and my 12yo, Grant, went to town, drawing and playing for upwards of 45 minutes.  I stayed there with them while Martin and the other two boys visited the Modern Mexican Painting exhibit.

It's inspired by Escuelas de Pintura al Aire Libre, the open-air painting schools of Mexico.

 

Fiala, very intent.

 

Audrey, candid.

 

Audrey, posing, now that she realizes Mom is snapping pics. Goober. Cute little goober.

So.  The Phoenix Art Museum.  You should go.  And pick up your passes from the library.  🙂

————–

*The Phoenix Library system has a great program called the Culture Pass.  There is a little kiosk inside each library branch that has cards which you take to the desk to “check out” a free pass, good for 2-4 tickets, to be used within the week, to various cultural attractions around the area.  For our one-income family, this is a fabulous way to make often-pricey museums an extremely reasonable outing.

 

FREE BOOKS from OSC!! (You pay shipping)

I am weeding through my books — homeschooling and other — and have some to offer.  I’ll post more as I have them.

These books are free for the taking, if you pay postage.  $2 for the first book, and $1 for each additional book you may want.  You can use the “Donate” button on the right-hand column;  that will take you to PayPal.  Write in the “notes” section which one(s) you’d like and pay accordingly.  I will send them via Media Mail.

Honor system:  Please do not turn around and re-sell them.  Please request them only if you have plans to use them personally.

(Links provided so you can read more about the book in question.)

1.  The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind — This has a 5-star review on Amazon.  Hardcover.  Excellent condition.  I received the book for free from the publisher, so I don’t feel right in selling it for profit.  However, I didn’t care for the tone of the book.  From what I read in the reviews, perhaps I just didn’t give it enough time…

2.  Zebra Finches – ©1981, it appears this little hardcover is still in print.  I bought it brand-spankin’ new about 30 years ago, when I bought some zebra finches.  I kept zebra finches for five years or so, as a kid.  🙂  It’s a pet-care book.

3.  The Christian Mother Goose Treasure, Part II — Personally, I am partial to the original Mother Goose, but if this sounds appealing to you, it’s yours!

4.  Parents and Children Together — Expanding Your Child’s Vocabulary — This 69 page booklet was given to me.  It is full of great ideas, and has some attractive cartoon illustrations… but it’s the sort of thing that would sit on my homeschooling bookshelf until I get “around to it”, and in the words of St. Augustine (culled from the Sunday Arizona Republic newspaper), “Modo et modo no habebant modum.” (By and by never comes.)

5.  Rocks & Minerals — Teacher resource and student activity book (with info and instructions for the teacher and copyable work pages for the student).  Appropriate for grades 6-9 (though it says for grades 5-8+)  This would be a good supplement for a geology science curriculum.  I found it somewhat worthwhile, but somewhat confusing, as many of the projects require more of a knowledge of geology than I have.  You may find it worth sifting through and choosing which activities to use.

 

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