Thursday, September 27, 2007

Primal Scream

As if washing dishes by hand in the kitchen sink for nearly 9 months wasn't enough.

Tonight our sink decided to regurgitate. Dirty water. Ground up food. Slime. All over.

Cliff, in a valiant attempt to correct the problem (or to at least make it bearable until a plumber could arrive tomorrow morning) cracked the cheap-o $.40 hardware plastic thing-y that a previous owner decided to do a quick fix with.

The plumber is calling us first thing in the morning with an Estimated Time of Arrival.

I, for one, cannot stand a filthy kitchen with dirty dishes, hence I am now washing dishes in the bathroom sink.

A funny moment in it all: While wondering if I could still use the dishwasher despite the unrepaired sink pipes, I called my stepdad Bruce. For a short time, I'm talking, and soon I'm relaying his questions to Cliff and then repeating Cliff's answers to him. Finally I just hand the phone over. Not wanting to hear what they feel might be the potential problem, I take the big kids upstairs to bed.

A short while later, Cliff comes up, on the phone. "Anytime tomorrow good for an appointment?" he asks. I nod, and he responds, "Yes, what time do you think you could fit us in?" . . .
"Uh huh,"
"Wait. . .Is this Bruce?"

Cliff, in his intense frustration and concentration of the plumbing crises, was under the impression that I had handed the plumber to him on the phone. It never even occurred to him that it was Bruce!

We all had a good chuckle over that one, and shortly afterwards Cliff called and spoke to the real plumber. Who told us NO! Under no circumstances, do NOT use the dishwasher!

Scrub-a-dub-dub, two forks, five spoons and 3 cups in the bathroom sink. . .

Guatemalan Adoptions

We have friends adopting from the beautiful country of Guatemala, as well as friends who have brought home their children from this country.

PLEASE read this post about future and current in process adoptions from Guatemala


It's time we stop governments from screwing with the welfare of children worldwide, or at the very least demand some accountability. The well being of THOUSANDS of childrens' lives at at stake.

Our School Room

With my little kids napping and the room in somewhat decent condition, Hattie and I snapped these photos of our School Room.

Our Wonderful Work Display (aka Closet Doors!)

Calendar/Weather Wall & Train Table


Playhouse Station

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Homeschooling Update

Here's our 7th Week of Homeschooling Scorecard:

Homeschooling: 1
The Rest of It (Husband, Family, Friends, Housework, Yardwork, Cooking, Baking, Grocery Shopping, Knitting Obsession, Adoption Obsession, Sewing Obsession, Reading, and oh yeah, Blogging): 0

I'm happy to report that the homeschooling in and of itself is going well. I was most worried about Hattie, but my fears have thus far been unfounded as she loves and is thriving with homeschooling. We are working on building her a solid foundation of math skills, and I was soaring when she mentioned, in passing, that she LIKES her math workbook. This from the 8-year old who last year lamented that she was "bad" in math and didn't like it. Eight is way too young of an age for a child to be carrying around such a low opinion, so we are diligently trying to change her perception.

Atticus proved to be a bit trickier. I was so intensely focused on Hatfield's adjustment to homeschooling that it took me a while to realize that my son needed more challenging work of a greater variety. Basically, I really needed to step up my game with this kid. I haven begun to create more of a kindergarten/Montessori-style setting in our school room, a work still in progress (I'll post pictures of it later). The results have been positive, for both him and Paloma, and I can see how this setup will really benefit us when the boys are home and I have three preschool students.

Our days are pretty scheduled, and we all know what to expect from one hour to the next. However, those hours FLY by each day. As I sit now, my knees feel slightly weak at the realization that tomorrow is already Thursday! Panic creeps up in my throat as I think about what is not getting done in the house, or the yard, extended family and friends who have been neglected. I try to reassure myself that someday, maybe, I'll get it all figured out and things will get done in good time. But for now, at least I have my priority of educating my kids as first and foremost. Plus we're having fun while doing it!

Monday this week was HOT! and as such we took the opportunity to create dried mud bricks. We had just read about the Egyptians' process for building mud bricks by mixing dirt with water and chopped straw, so we thought we'd give it a go.

To spice it up a bit, I had us mix three batches of mud, each with a different additive, so that we could then compare which bricks were the strongest. Batch One: Mud and Water; Batch Two: Mud, Sand and Water; Batch Three: Mud, Straw and Water.

It was difficult for us to determine which was stronger of the Mud/Water Bricks or the Mud/Water Straw bricks. Both were much more solid than the Mud/Sand, which crumbled apart. Paloma felt that the Mud/Straw bricks, despite their high scores in strength, tasted the worst. She is more of simple dirt/water sort of kid, preferring that even over grainy-goodness of the sand/mud mix.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

The Love Contest

"Who do you love more, Mommy--me or Hattie?"

Atticus surprised me a bit yesterday morning while we were sorting his laundry. "I love you both the same--tons and tons," I answered.

"Noooo, that's wrong. You love me more because I'm Dad's twin. And you married Daddy," he explained, walking over to the mirror.

"We got the same brown eyes," he makes his eyes really big. "We got the same crazy black hair," he runs his hands through his hair. "And we wear the same dresses."

"Oh really, you both wear dresses?" I ask.

He ignores that comment, and leaves the bathroom. "Hey Hattie...guess what?" I hear him call, knowing what will soon follow.

Later that evening, I recounted the story to Cliff, who got a huge kick out of it. "He had a point," Cliff responded, "But did you point out to him that Hattie is your twin?"

I can only imagine what would have ensued had I done so.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The Horny Corny Guy

No, this is a post about my husband.

A favorite afternoon game in our house is the Superhero Edition of Memory. The above card is some uni-horned character (no idea who). Last week while playing, Atticus called him "The Horny Guy." Hattie, not to ever be outdone, went one step further and dubbed him "The Horny Corny Guy." My two children then began chanting, "Horny Corny" over and over again, all while I'm trying not to bust out laughing.

On a related topic, I stink at Memory. Horrible. I like to blame it on the fact that, beyond Spiderman, I have no idea who any of these heroes are, therefore making it harder for me to memorize something I have no recognition of. Atticus is not much better than me, mainly because he lacks the skill of paying attention to fine detail. Hattie can pick up a card that Atticus will recognize and know where the mate is. Even if his turn is right after hers, he'll pick up the mate first, and then try to remember where the card was that Hatfield just flipped over. 9 times out of 10, he'll be off by one, maybe two, cards.

Hattie, on the other hand, rocks. Last game she had 26 pairs, to Atticus's 6 and my 4. She is a carbon copy of my sister Stephanie, 25 years ago. It is absolutely no fun to play with either of them, although I would like to see them matched against one another.

Are you up for that challenge, Aunt Stephie?

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

The Return of an Old Friend

My liquor cabinet is empty, and my principles have left the building.

About my last post. . .

Okay, apparently I have a case of Mommy Brain so severe that I actually forgot WHY I decided to blog in the first place. Fortunately, I have wonderful friends who lift me up by keeping me grounded (what a play on words ;) and after hearing/reading their feedback, I found my footing.

I began my blog as a way to keep our long distance families and friends about our lives and the kids. Shortly afterwards, I realized that it was also a great way to keep a recorded journal of our family life together. As an added bonus, since photos are involved, it also became a great way for me to avoid scrapbooking (my scrapbooking friends know exactly what I'm talking about--I'm the girl who brings knitting to our monthly scraps).

And so this blog of the Five Frozen Chamorros--which is in desperate need of a new name to accurately reflect our changing family, which may actually require some deeper thinking on my part, but only for that-shall remain our tale about our family times.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Swimming In the Shallow End of the Thought Pool

I've been reading a lot of blogs lately; blogs about adoption, homeschooling, large families. Written by moms who are just as busy or busier than I.

Over and over, I am often struck by their insights on these matters. By the clarity of their voices. By the impact of their words. By the depth of their philosophical quandaries.

And over and over, I realize that I am not on this level.

I do not mean that I disagree with them (or agree for that matter). I mean that I read their blogs and walk away feeling shallow.

Honestly, my days go by in a blur. Early morning wakeup, homeschooling, music lessons, art lessons, sports, kid bedtime, time with my husband, time to crash. Rinse and repeat.

I'm not complaining--I love this life, my husband, my kids--it's a satisfied blur, but a blur nonetheless. A blur that leaves me tired and with very little time and desire to think deep thoughts. The need is just not there for me, and on occasion I wonder if this should bother me.

I realize that I'm wrestling with my ego. With pride. With the echoes of a teenage 'nerd' who was always at the top of her classes.

I'm surprised, though, by how little I'm wrestling with these things. Even two years ago, these thoughts would have burdened me. Today, not as much.

Busy. Focused on the day to day. Tired. Is this the new 'stupid'?

Honestly, who cares? I think I'll take my dose of deep thinking vicariously, through my blogging friends. For now, I'm swimming my laps in the shallow end.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Silly Boys

Kids are still kids, orphanage or not.

(Merisier, bottom left)

Flasher! (Still not potty trained--am I going to have 3 at home in dipes? Perish the thought!)

Clifford's Cool in Haiti, too

Rock, Paper, Scissors


Ah Coochy Choochy Coo (That's Merisier's hand coming from the left)

Best Friends Forever

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Friday, September 07, 2007

Dear Lord, What Have I Done?

Sometimes living by principle can get one into a whole lotta trouble. Take a look at this picture. Note what is missing (beyond an obvious sense of decorating--the family room is my hodge podge room, which will solely lack a clear 'look' until all my children are no longer at risk of soiling my furniture).

Figure it out? I'll give you a hint: Two letters.


After reading Michelle's post "The Stranger" over at the Swat Team's blog, I felt a little riled up. Going back to it yesterday morning, after 3 cups of coffee at 9:30 a.m., I got REALLY fired up and decided to remove the tv from our home.

Note to Self: every morning at 9:30 am, 3 cups of coffee will lead oneself to feel invincible, and as such many an inane idea will sound fabulous!

Note to Readers: if you want me to volunteer, donate or somehow indenture myself or my services, 9:30 am is a darn good time to catch me.

So, flying by the seat of my principles, we hauled out the tv, and dvd, and antenna, to the garage. I announced to the kids that it is so much more fun to play board games than to watch some stupid primetime gameshow (all right, I didn't use the word 'stupid'--my kids are still young enough where they think that is the "S" word in our house); that it would be more fun to read books and put on our own plays than to watch some uninteresting show.

NEVER, in all my glorious spouting off, did I ever stop and think about the fact that EVERY morning, Paloma wakes up at sometime during the early part of the 5 am hour! Nor did it occur to me that the ONLY way we have managed to get through that hour is to turn Barney on dvd, and doze while Paloma sat there, happily mesmerized.

Trust me, I was thinking about it this morning.

Michelle, who has thrived in tv-free glory for the better part of 5 months, got an early morning phone call this morning.

"PLEASE tell me that it gets better than this!!" I begged her.

A long chuckle (or was it a cackle?) was all I got for an answer.

Really, today was not the best day for me to start off such a radical way of living. I have a horrible head cold, Paloma has the horrible head cold and fever, and it was downpouring all morning.

I found I really had to truly step up my game this morning, bringing out some toys we hadn't seen for a long while (hence making them more appealing), pulling together a craft for the afternoon, and rounding everyone outside for a post-rain bike ride (through which Atticus cried and whined that his legs were tired, and itchy, and wouldn't work, only until the very end when a bee started chasing him, and then he FLEW back home! I had no idea that the kid could ride so fast, and I nearly fell off my bike laughing at the sight of it!). Somehow, we managed to make it through our first tv-free day.

I was just about to write a comment, lamenting on my dread for my early tv-free morning with Paloma. But it suddenly occurred to me that it's Saturday tomorrow! Mom's turn to sleep in; Dad's turn for tv-less, 5 am entertainment. Have fun, honey!

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

New Pics from Haiti!

Time flies. . . a week ago, I was over at Jill's, helping her pack for their trip to Haiti. They're already back home, and her pictures are in hand.

Jill and her mother met Jill's new daughter, Christna. Without further adieu, may I present the cutest little 2-year old girl in the orphanage:

Is she not absolutely precious?!? I cannot wait to hold this little one, and what a gift to have her living just a block away when she comes home to her new family.

The boys are good. They are still living with Marie in the original orphanage. The great majority of the children, generally the older kids, have moved to a new facility. Big, beautiful, clean: it is a dream. The kids have room to run and play; they are not all stuck in that sweltering 2nd floor bedroom; I have heard that they even have designated girl/boy dormitory rooms there, although I have not seen photos of them yet. My boys are still considered "little guys" however, and so they stay at the original orphanage, their home of the past 16 months, the only one they really know. And I'm relieved for them.

The kids and I worked hard on making the boys' care packages that Jill and Mary Pat so kindly hand delivered. We bought two Thomas the Tank soft lunchboxes, and stuffed them with identical goodies: photo albums with labeled photos of my time with the boys, our family and home; small Spiderman bouncy balls; mini Tonka trucks; Hot Wheels; Teddy Grahams, Ritz Bits and Merisier's favorite: Craisins! I also included a small bracelet for each boy that I made back in May, but in my haste forgot to pack. Black and white, it spells "Mama Renmen Ou" which is Kreyole for Mama Loves You.

Jill said that our boys were quiet and shy, but very intent on the goodies in the packages. They dug into the treats right away, and were quite taken with the cars and trucks. Both boys looked through the photo albums, while Jill read each caption.

In a Haitian orphanage, everything is community property and no one really has their own possessions. As such, I sent our care packages along knowing that the items would be distributed and/or destroyed in a matter of hours. That's okay, and really, I just want them to know we're thinking of them. And sure enough, when Jill was at Wall's, on of the moms there bringing her daughter home, returned from the orphanage with her girl, who was proudly displaying her new pretty black-and-white bracelet. These kids have so little, it's so nice to see it going around and being enjoyed!

Totally random side note, but it just truly occurred to me that when Jill and I get together for the kids to play, next year after the adoptions are complete, it will be the TWO of us with our combined TEN kids! I can't wait!!

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Guess what we brought home from the alpaca farm!!


No, not that crazy!

Today, Hattie, Jimmy and I went to the Kele Alpaca Farm in Kewaunee, Wi, for their annual Day at the Farm event. It is a wonderful gathering of alpaca farmers who share their love of these beautiful creatures, and local artisans--spinners, weavers, knitters--also gather and display their skills and wares.

In addition to alpacas, a woman had two tiny black kittens with her. As we headed over to her display area, we scooped up the kittens and learned that she was trying to find a (free!) good home for them. The kittens are twin sisters who purred immediately in our arms. And all that being said, we'd like to introduce the two newest members of our family:

Iris and Lily.

Don't ask me which one is which, cause I don't know. We bought two different color collars for them this afternoon, and now Hattie, Atticus and Paloma all can tell the difference. Cliff and I are still too dense (or tired, as Paloma was up again this morning at 4:20 am) to figure it out.

I have long missed having a cat in our home, as has Hattie. A few weeks back I read a beautifully written piece by a homeschooling mom about the family cat, who could always be found on the lap of one of the peacefully reading homeschooled children on a rainy morning or snowy afternoon. Ever since then, I have been dreaming about having a cat or two who would take that role in our family.

Luckily, I didn't have to look long because these two little kitties seemed to find us this morning. So far, so good. They seem gentle and quite content to wrestle with one another, but snuggle with us. We left them for a bit to have dinner with friends, and they didn't tear the house apart. We still need to deal with the Ernie situation, but our old friend will come around sooner or later. Paloma has been very gentle so far; Atticus, who typically is scared of cats, actually announced tonight that he likes the cats and wanted me to bring Iris in to sleep with him when the cats were ready to go to bed (as if I know which one Iris is). So far, so good, but it hasn't been 24 hours yet, and tomorrow I'll probably be posting about my clawed furniture, cat scratched kids and hairball-laden house ;)

Complete side note about our trip to the farm:

This little girl (on the right, behind the alpaca) led Hattie on her $2.00 "Walk an Alpaca" walk. Turns out she lives a few blocks away in our neighborhood (we were at a farm 30 minutes away). The alpaca is hers and they "board" it at the farm, which I knew they did with horses, but alpacas? Who knew! I asked her how she came to own an alpaca, to which she replied, "My mom decided she wanted us to have one, so we got one." Huh. I asked what she did with the shorn wool. "I have a spinning wheel, so I spin it, but I can't knit." You can't knit?!? You have all that alpaca wool just lying around your house?!? How can I subtly give her Hattie's number for a playdate without her thinking that I was only after the alpaca wool? Hmmmm, I think from now on Hattie is only allowed to play with girls she meets at these alpaca farm events.