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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Baby Date and Family News

I have forgotten to mention here that barring any complications, we will meet our new daughter on July 8. I met with the doctor who will do the surgery, and she is wonderful. I am wishing I went with her last time, but whatever.

She works with mostly midwives, so she doesn't flip out about birth and pretty much takes care of the hard cases in the practice. She was easy going and listened to me, answered my questions and had good ideas for dealing with some things that we'd encountered before with medication and surgery preferences. I'll see her again about a week before we have the baby, and the morning of the surgery.

Dominic's stitches came out easily, and he's looking and feeling much better. We're still applying vitamin e, mederma and paper tape on Amira to try to keep her scar from being too bad. We have managed to go two weeks with no serious injuries in the house!

Rich and I finally got to go out with a couple I've met through our local homeschool group. Well, I'd met the wife, and we got along swimmingly, and we've been trying to get the adults and/or families together for some time. Our local Y has a ballroom class, and her husband has been wanting to go, so Rich and I said we'd go with them when we could, and we finally had a chance. We went out for coffee afterward and our husbands also got along, which is nice. We'll be seeing them at the Northwest Catholic Family Education Conference this weekend as well. There is a swing dance scheduled for Friday night, so we are looking forward to doing that, too. Several really amazing speakers and topics are being covered at this conference, and we are going to take in as much as we can. I believe you can still register, and possibly even register at the door, so if you are in the area and are interested, I encourage you to go. The prices were extremely reasonable for families, though I think they went up by $10 a week or two ago, they still should be around $60 for both days for a family. We're bringing our own lunches, and either scouting out something local and inexpensive for dinner or packing one, so we aren't paying for that, but I believe meals are offered for an additional cost.

There is another general homeschool conference, non-sectarian, on June 13-14. The Washington Homeschool Organization is having their big annual conference. We plan on going on the Saturday to check out the curricula, services and organizations represented, and to play around with the fun things scheduled for children and families. We like this group a lot, and their website offers all sorts of good information for homeschoolers in Washington state. One of the things I really appreciate about this group is their understanding of what non-sectarian means (from their website):

Clarification - Nonsectarian Policy
In order to avoid the perception of association, or implied affiliation, with a particular religious denomination, it is inappropriate for WHO to include a religious service, ceremony or practice as part of its sponsored activities, events, or presentations. In those instances where WHO is providing a framework for the individual expression of homeschooling experiences, styles, perspectives or preferences (i.e. graduation parent statements, convention workshops, curriculum vendors, student exhibits) WHO will not attempt to control or censor that expression in terms of religious content.


This is what religious neutrality actually is. They do not sponsor any religious group or activities, but when the students or parents are doing it, they don't interfere. Even when it happens during one of their events. So, some of the workshops at the conference actually are religious, for instance, and because they are very open about the content people can choose whether or not to participate. Vendors can be openly religious without being penalized, or keeping it quiet. At the same time, workshops can be actively secular, vendors do not need to profess any particular belief, and members come from every walk of faith and some from none. Imagine that!

Membership in WHO is very reasonable, $25.00 a year, and gives you a free entry into one conference of theirs each year (there are two in our state, one in Eastern WA, and this one in Western WA), and if you wish to join HSLDA, there is a discount which basically subtracts the cost of your WHO membership from the HSLDA membership. HSLDA has a list of other homeschool memberships within each state for which they give discounts. WHO is only one of many in Washington, so if you already belong to another group, you can see if that membership will get you a discount with HSLDA. HSLDA is Christian, but works with and serves all homeschoolers and other homeschooling groups regardless of faith. If you take a look at their qualifying groups, you'll see secular, non-sectarian, and other groups that are from differing faiths represented, and no faith statement is required to be a member or use HSLDA's services.

Th all the news from here for today. Talk to you later.

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Friday, April 25, 2008

More Finished Objects

I finished Amira's leg warmers on Sunday, and another crocheted cotton sponge yesterday. I started a bun warmer with the left over yarn from the leg warmers, but it looks like I will have to break into the second skein to finish it. I also started on a garter st dishcloth today.

The leg warmers will work fine, but when I make another pair I will use a size larger needles for the leg and just use the smaller needles for the ribbing. They are firm the way I like socks to be, but could be a little slouchier for leg warmers. I also thought I'd add a st pattern to the leg on the second pair.

I have taken pictures of all my projects, and as we are a little closer to getting the right computer for us, I may even have a chance to post those photos soon. Also, we think we have found the right mini-van, or at least we now have leads that we didn't have before. We found a 2006 eight seat Toyota Sienna with only 27,000 miles on it, all the original body panels with a roof rack and what is evidently bare bones car extras, but to us seem pretty cool as we've been driving 10 year old cars, for only $17,588. We're hoping to get him to knock the price down by $1500-2000 since we can just give him the money, and that would basically cover our taxes. We're going to take our mechanic to take a look at it with us. He also has another one that is a 2007, with 5,000 more miles on it, but with more extras, still has a roof rack and this one has a towing set up, for $18,588. If our mechanic okays either of these, and they are still available, we should have a new (to us) car by next weekend. If not, at least we have some options for finding what we need, which we didn't have before. Our other car option is the Honda Odyssey 2005 or later, since that's when they added an eight seater to the options.

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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Classical Conversations?

Does anyone out there know if there is a less dogmatically Protestant group that is similar to Classical Conversations? I had looked into it really briefly when we were researching homeschooling, but didn't remember a whole lot about it.

Last week I went to an information meeting about beginning a campus in our area. The methods they use are just what I'm looking for, it is once a week, the parents are still considered the primary teachers, so in that sense it is really great. I asked if they had a faith statement, because of a few comments that the woman presenting made which set off some alarm bells for me about how they would deal with Catholicism (I believe Orthodoxy is almost entirely ignored, though it tends to get lumped in with Catholicism in many Protestant circles). The faith statement itself was relatively innocuous. It was very up front about their positions and beliefs. I like that. I'd rather know what position a person or group had, right off the bat. The students enrolled do not have to subscribe to this statement, nor do the parents who enroll their children and come to the classes. Tutors and directors do, which would exclude Rich and me from those positions, because there were things in the statement of faith that we could not honestly affirm. This wasn't the real problem, though. We can live without the extra work and responsibility of being tutors or directors.

The problem was the materials they used. They come from a very well known classical homeschooling publisher, and they are well made, beautifully printed, accessible, organized. They are also rather vituperatively anti-Catholic. The history materials described the Catholic church as completely apostate, Catholic figures were presented in the worst possible light, often rather dishonestly, there was at least one text from a Church Father that was used, with the introduction that although this person was Catholic (and, it was implied, therefore not a reliable source of information, or a valuable person to study), before his conversion he had been a believing Christian. These are just a few examples. It started mild, and got worse as you went through the material.

We do not wish our children to be exposed to an anti view of the beliefs that we are passing on to them from textbooks and other authoritative sources. While there are certainly individuals in history who will hold this view, and there are certainly negative periods in the Church's history, which we will not ignore, it is a different thing to read those views from people or groups than it is to be taught that it is absolute, unquestionable fact from instructors, text books and commentaries.

In the later levels of Classical Conversations, the courses are more like seminars and the parents and children pick and choose which ones in which they will enroll and participate, which is perfectly acceptable to us. The grammar stage, however, is an all or nothing proposition, so we could not effectively keep the children out of the history and religion portions. I understand why that is, as the grammar stage is about rules, facts, vocabulary, etc, and all the material presented is what forms the foundation of their later education, but this was not acceptable to us.

Rich and I are getting to the point where we'd rather use exclusively Catholic and Orthodox materials (or balanced secular materials), and supplement some more secular or Protestant material to study the Reformation and the Great Awakenings in the U.S, rather than try to reorient the entire world view of history to include the whole Church's history. This program actually defined periods of history as pre-Reformation, Reformation and post-Reformation, which gives you an idea of their frame of reference.

Aside from not wanting this kind of point of view presented as truth to our children anyway, there is a theological problem we have with it. Basically, the view that says that the Church that God established became utterly corrupt and apostate means that the Holy Spirit was not strong enough to preserve the Church, hold it together, and keep the promise that it would be guided in all truth and that the gates of Hell would not prevail against it without the intervention of sinful men. The other part of this that is irritating is how these groups present themselves as representative of Christianity as a whole. It is far more honest to say that they are Protestant or Anabaptist, or Fundamentalist, or Evangelical, or whatever. I don't think it is an effort to be deceptive, partly because I think they really believe that their beliefs are representative of the entire Christian world, even in opposition to the evidence of historical Christianity, but it ends up being a misrepresentation, probably from a misguided attempt at eccumenism. We'd much rather deal with a group of Baptists, or Methodists, or Orthodox, or Presbyterian, or Catholic, or what have you and know right up front what their standards and beliefs and perspectives are going to be, where we will agree and where we will differ.

In fact, we will be going to a Catholic home education conference in a week. We know that some of the presentations will not be entirely relevant to our family, nor to our theology, but we won't walk into some unwelcome surprise either. Likewise, when we visit our friends' church which is strongly Anabaptist and quite open and direct about it, we know what to expect, we are not offended when they preach their theology, and we know the areas we will have to discuss and clarify with our children.

I do not think that anonymous eccumenism, which is really sectarian, but disguised, furthers cooperation between churches. There are real theological differences, which are significant, and that matter, that need to be hammered out before theological unity can be achieved. However, there are many basics that are held in common, enough that we can be considered Christian brothers and sisters, even with our differences, and that should form the basis of any joint work or effort. Calling a Christian brother an apostate does not further joint work. Calling an entire communion (two actually) of the Church unChristian does not make your communion look better, or make unity any more possible. It is worse, actually, than disagreement, as it says that they are imposters posing as Christians and leading people astray. Jesus had some serious words about those who posed as believers and led other people astray. He said it was better for a millstone to be hung about their necks and for them to be thrown into the sea. This is what these groups are saying about Catholicism and (usually by implication) Orthodoxy.

So, back to my original question. Are there any similar home education groups to Classical Conversations which are either less Protestant, or Catholic or Orthodox, or even secular, if they are willing to deal honestly with religious history? I know there is T.O.R.C.H. which is Catholic, and about which I have heard good things from Protestants and Orthodox alike, but it is not strictly classical, as I understand it.

While I'm at it, are there any Jewish homeschool publishers or organizations out there? I met a man and his daughter yesterday at homeschool P.E. who is Jewish and using Christian materials, editing and revising it according to their faith for their daughter. Academically, it is fine, but has some obvious difficulties for them when it comes to idealogy. They are using an all inclusive curriculum, so that's probably what they are looking for, at least for now, but any suggestions would be nice. I was going to do some searching on the web and see if I could come up with something for their family when I see them on Monday.

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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Freeing the Family from Factory Food

Well, we still don't have the dairy cattle or the sheep, but we're doing the best we can.

Since we get about 15-20 eggs a day, we come up with lots of uses for them. 15-18 eggs make scrambled eggs for our family, but since we don't eat that every single day, we do end up with a glut sometimes. Here are some ideas for using up eggs, or storing them. You can scramble each egg individually, and freeze them in ice cube trays to use in cooking later. Pop them out and put them in a plastic sack or one of those vacuum bags. I do this with the dead coffee from the pot, too, to add to chocolate milk or iced coffee drinks so the coffee doesn't go to waste and drinks aren't watered down.

Anyway. Other than freezing the eggs for cooking purposes, I think the best way to store eggs is in pound cakes. I use a modified recipe from Fine Cooking, which I really like, but whatever recipe you like will work. Make up a whole bunch, wrap them tightly, and freeze, and you can pull them out whenever you need a quick dessert or brunch addition. We eat lots of egg based meals: savory custards, frittatas, souffles, quiches, egg puff casseroles, eggs in purgatory, egg burritos, etc. We also eat eggs for breakfast quite a bit, either fried, scrambled or steamed (this is a better way to cook eggs that are fresh and still have the shells peel off easily, it also takes less time, I put the eggs in the steamer with a little water in the bottom, put the lid on and cook on high for 12 minutes), those hard cooked eggs are nice sliced in salads, sandwiches or made into egg salad or deviled eggs (which I don't like, but the family does), too. We make those breakfast stratas and french toast, or fry them in the cut out part of toast. Eggs are also great for custards for ice cream, citrus curds and sauces. We especially like, aioli, Hollandaise and mayonnaise.

I don't think I've posted the method I use for making mayonnaise here before. It is quick and easy, and you'll never want to go back to store mayo again. Yours won't have gums, cheap oils, extra sugars, or any of that junk in it, and it will taste far better. Even with store eggs. Use fresh, if you can get them, though. It does require a stick blender, so if you don't have that, you'll have to invest $15-25 in one of those (unless you can find one at a garage sale or thrift store or have a family member or friend who doesn't want hers). Things that matter: Use a glass jar. I've always been successful with a glass jar, I've had failures with plastic ones. The egg needs to be room temperature. We use a recently gathered egg. You can put your egg on the counter in the morning and make this in the afternoon, or put the egg in a hot cup of water while you get everything else ready. Then switch the water out with fresh hot water and wait a little more. It needs to be room temperature. The lemon juice (or lime juice) must be fresh. Use a light oil, preferably cold pressed, so the flavor isn't too strong. You may like olive oil mayo, but if you don't, a light oil will provide a more "American" flavor.

In a glass jar (I use a peanut butter jar) that is wide enough for the blender to fit through put, in this order:

1 egg, room temperature
1 1/2 tsp. Fresh lemon juice
1/2 tsp. dry mustard powder
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup light oil

Put stick blender down to the bottom of the jar without turning it on. Then start it and, rocking side to side, slowly pull it up to the top. This will take you about 7-10 seconds. Literally. You will not want to go back to store mayonnaise again. Your family will no longer be tied to supermarket prices for mayo, you won't get all sorts of additives and cheap ingredients and now you can teach your children something about emulsion, also.

Now for the dairy. I've mentioned how I make our yogurt here. We don't have those dairy cows, so we are still reliant on local farmers and organic milk from the store. You would be surprised, though, at the prices compared to the "regular" stuff. Our local store carries organic, from pasture raised cattle, milk for $4.99 a gallon. The standard milk with the hormones and antibiotics runs $3.48 a gallon. We print coupons from the brand website which take a dollar off the price, making the organic milk about $0.50 more. If we buy the unhomogenized, organic milk (same company, which pasture raises the cattle), it costs us nearly $8.00 a gallon. However, we have recently found a local, commercial farm which will sell us pasture raised, hormone and antibiotic free, organic, unhomogenized, raw milk from one specific cow (she does not mix the milk from different cows), for $5.50 a gallon. The organic, hormone and antibiotic free, plain yogurt we prefer to buy costs about $2.00-2.99 a quart (it depends if there's a sale), the non-organic costs about $2.00-2.50 again depending on sales. The little flavored yogurt cups run from $0.40-0.80 for 4-6 ounces, which is at the lowest price $2.13 per quart and at the highest $6.40 a quart. We sometimes see 8 ounce cups for as low as $0.50 each, and up to $0.80, which works out to $2.00-3.20 a quart. That is not a quarter of the price of a gallon of milk, unless you get a sale price on the yogurt and compare it to the unhomogenized milk in the store. Even buying the raw milk, a quart of milk runs about $1.38. If we use the pasteurized milk from the store, that is about a dollar a quart. If you use the regular store milk, don't care about the benefit of organic, or about the hormones or antibiotics, you're looking at $0.87 a quart. You can see the financial benefit to making your own. We flavor ours with our homemade preserves if we want fruity yogurt.

There is another benefit, though. If you read the ingredients of commercial yogurts, even the nice ones, even the organic ones, you will find gums, gelatin, stabilizers and starches. This keeps it thick even through the processing and the time in the store. You are paying for that when you buy your $2.00-6.40 a quart yogurt. It is also not necessary to the yogurt, and you don't need to eat extra starches and gums. For the price of a quarter of your gallon of milk, you can have fresh, tasty, inexpensive, additive free yogurt. This takes longer than the mayo. I like to make it in either quart jars or one of our mixing and pouring bowls which has a lid.

Many recipes say to heat the milk up to 125 degrees F and then reduce the temperature from there. I find that this necessitates the use of powdered milk to thicken the yogurt, which defeats my purpose of lowest additives required and least processing necessary. You can drain the thinner yogurt through cheesecloth to thicken it up, if you don't want to add anything to it, but that adds an extra step, an extra bowl and extra time. I'm not interested in that. This is one of the few things I use my microwave for (the other major uses being melting chocolate and extracting juice from fruit for making jellies and cooking the pulp for making butters), though you can use a pot on the stove .

Heat 8 cups of milk (you can use 4 cups, but we have a large family, and everyone likes yogurt) in a microwave safe bowl for 15-20 minutes, or until the temperature measures at least 185 degrees F (use a clip on candy thermometer to check the temperature - outside of the microwave! you don't want any explosions from the metal clip). Let it cool to 110 degrees F. This takes quite a bit of time, at least two to three hours. You can speed it up by putting the bowl in an ice bath and stirring, but it can go down too fast doing that, so I prefer just to do this in the morning while I am doing other things and can leave it alone.

Meanwhile, set up a warm place where the yogurt can be left undisturbed for 10-12 hours. If you have a gas oven, leaving the pilot light on is often enough. If you have an electric oven that allows you to set the temperature at 100 degrees F, you can use that. I don't have either. The lowest temperature setting on my oven is 170 degrees. So, I put a warmed towel in a warm spot, fold it so it is doubled, and put the jars with the lids on (sterilize these first, if you are using them), or the bowl with the lid on top of the folded towel and then wrap the whole thing up with a couple more towels to insulate it.

Innoculate the milk with 1/2 cup of yogurt with live cultures, use plain yogurt - from the store or your last batch of homemade yogurt. Whisk it in until it is completely mixed in. Either leave it in the bowl and cover as I described, or pour it into your clean jars and seal the lids, then put in a warm spot and leave undisturbed for 10-12 hours (see above). You don't want to jiggle it at all, as that disturbs the curd and you'll end up with yogurt bits in a whole lot of liquid.

After enough time has passed, very carefully move it to the refrigerator to cool down and firm up. This will take another 8-12 hours. This is the other reason I like to start yogurt in the morning. I make it one day, and it is ready for the next morning if we want it for breakfast.

This is a long process, but most of it requires nothing from you at all in terms of work. It is tasty, fresh, and you never have to buy yogurt again, unless you let it run out completely or eat it so rarely that the cultures all die. I imagine if you save yogurt containers, you could put your yogurt in those to incubate, but we use those containers to send food home with people or freeze leftover soup.

Our next project is going to be making cheese. We have recipes for cream cheese, cottage cheese, mozzarella and ricotta which all claim to be fairly simple cheesemaking.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Things You Cannot Laugh About

While I was grading the boys' most recent history exam, I had to keep myself from laughing out loud. The first section was on ancient China, and one of the questions was: Why don't we know many facts about the first great leader of China?

There were four answers, multiple choice, the correct choice being: There are no written records about his empire.

Dominic chose: No one understands Chinese writing.

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Monday, April 21, 2008

Menu Plan Monday: April 21

I haven't had a chance to go to Rich's office, so I will post the menu plan, and see if I can actually connect with the carnival later.


What is on your menu this week?

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Computer & Life Update

We almost got a newer computer this weekend. It was a pretty good deal, but ended up not working out. The fellow who was selling it, though, has some others he might be able to sell later, so we might be back in action in the next couple weeks.

Once we get a better computer set up here, I will be able to post photos of the lovely children again, who are much bigger than they were two months ago. I will also be able to post pictures of my projects, like the leg warmers I finished yesterday and the dish cloths.

Since Amira's ballet recital is coming up in a couple months as well, I'll have photos of that to share. And she'll be wearing the expensive recital costume all summer, as I doubt she'll fit into it next year, nor have any reason to wear it, so she might as well get the use out of it. I'm thinking she can use it as her Halloween costume, if we work things right.

I'm going to try to use Rich's work computer to post my menu plan tonight, so I won't have to take hours to do it on this one.

We have eight weeks left of our official homeschool year. My goal is to be finished with school before Amira's recital. I want to get us through this cycle of history, since I want to make sure they have a good overview of the ancient world before we move on to post-Roman era and Middle Ages. We are going to spend some time on history and science this summer, and we always do religious education, but mostly we'll have time off. This is both so the children get a break and so we don't have to worry about trying to teach right around when we have the baby.

Right now, we're busy putting in our vegetable garden. We have big plans this year, but it is a new plot, so we aren't expecting huge yields. The chickens and ducks are producing well, though I think we will let the ducks go when they go, because of the mess they make, and work in turkeys instead, as we can get good meat and maybe a few eggs, without the mess and stupidity. There is a reason people use the phrase sitting duck. Maybe if we had more room for them to forage and we had a natural pond, instead of the relatively limited space and the pretend pond we have to clean, having water fowl wouldn't be such a pain. They are nice ducks, and lay an egg pretty much every day, each one, but I don't think the drake is successfully fertilizing any of them, so we're feeding him and giving him house room for no reason, really, and he's too old to want to eat him. They do eat up the slugs, though, so our garden will benefit from that. There are a couple varieties of ducks and one type of goose I really find interesting, but until we can get 30 acres somewhere to farm, I think we'll stick with chickens and turkeys.

The hives are doing well, we expect to at least double our honey yield from last year, and actually expect more than that, as this summer doesn't look to be as cool as last year's was. Rich has one at a friend's fruit orchard, so they get a better crop of fruit and we get tasty honey. They've given us fruit from their orchard every year, and we just started giving them eggs. It's a pretty good deal. This year, we may have enough honey to start trading with that as well, and not just for our use and gifts. Given optimal conditions, and with our two hives, we may get up to 22 gallons of honey this year. We have had another trade like that with a friend who does lots of vegetable and flower gardening, so we get a fresh basket of organic produce and flowers each week and she gets eggs. I love bartering like this.

The haggling gene has evidently skipped me, as I cannot stand negotiating price like Rich does, but trade is right up my alley. That's actually part of how we got into this whole chicken and duck thing. There was a family in town who raised chickens and ducks, who produced far more eggs than this one couple could use, so we traded with them, I baked an extra loaf of bread each week and they'd give us 18-24 eggs. When they got out of raising poultry because of the husband's failing health and the wife's work load, we had to go back to buying store eggs, and they were so insipid that we got serious about getting our own flock started. This is our third year of it, and it is a fun way to have fresh food. The boys help us with the birds and collecting eggs, giving them table scraps and grass clippings, and all of us benefit from them. The children are learning about caring for animals, and have a bit of responsibility attached to it, which is a great thing for them. Also, we still maintain the no pets that don't contribute to the household standard. We are looking into getting a cat as a mouser for that reason. This is a pet we all would enjoy, but it would provide a great service to our house in the woods.

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The Other Reason Prompt Care Is Better

They bill as though the visit was an office visit, instead of a hospital visit, as Urgent Care does (we just got the bill for Amira's visit in February - guess what? Not only was it much larger than the payments we've had to make at Prompt Care, but it was inaccurate, what a surprise). Their service is faster, their hours are later in the evenings and longer on the weekends, they bill for office visits, so you don't get stuck with a huge amount, they bill properly and can explain their bills.

It's really a shame that MultiCare has these billing issues, because the medical care we received there for Elijah was really quite excellent. His surgeon was great, and we were happy with her as a doctor as well as a person whom we've gotten to know a little better than we might have because of how much we had to deal with her and her office, she even came to Elijah's first birthday party that we threw for all the people who had helped us leading up to his birth, during his birth and afterward.

Franciscan has in its favor the billing clarity, as well as also having excellent medical care. The only reason we even dealt with MultiCare at all was because of their having the children's hospital and specialty NICU. The only annoying thing that happened there during our medical dealings and stay at the hospital was that when a nurse prayed with me before the surgery, the anesthesiologist started cross examining everyone there to figure out who authorized this whole praying thing (and yes, I had indicated on the forms my religious preference, and yes the nurse asked me if I belonged to any particular faith and if I wished to pray before the surgery began; at all points I could have either refrained from giving information that indicated a religious sensibility or refused her offer, which was not presented as hospital policy or mandatory practice before surgery. Isn't it idiotic that I have to clarify that, though?). At Franciscan, nobody calls the legal department if someone says God bless you. Our first two visitors at the hospital after we had Amira (at Franciscan) were priests, in their clericals, and nobody batted an eyelash, or rushed in to ask us if we were feeling oppressed.

Anyway, so pretty much our decision after six years of dealing with MultiCare and this one instance of going to the Urgent Care center instead of the Prompt Care where we've normally gone when we've had to do things after hours is that we will not darken MultiCare's door again. We have told all our babysitters that if they have to call in for help or take the children to a medical center to go to Franciscan, all sports or scouting leaders that our favored hospital is a Franciscan hospital, and I think it would take quite the catastrophe and all of Franciscan hospitals being shut down before we would go back to MultiCare.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

This Seems So Familiar

Evidently, Dominic felt like he was losing in the family injury record. Twice today, he fell off of a stool or seat because he was wiggling it so much that he knocked it off balance and the whole thing went, with him on it.

This last time was in the kitchen, near the sharp counter edge, the hot oven and skillet full of hot food for dinner, and his arm waving near the recently sharpened chef's knife. Thank God, he missed all of those. However, he did topple the stool he was standing on, turning it on its side, getting hit in the hip and putting a rather deep gouge under his chin. He missed his jugular, though.

Big sigh. This is getting to be too much. My poor children are living a little too dangerously for my liking.

We had been having a home ec lesson, and he had done well with the can opener, sharp knife, with the grater, and was getting ready to help fill the pan for the casserole and sprinkle his freshly grated cheese over the top. All was going so well, and he was paying such close attention to the safety precautions I kept repeating. Then, he decided to lean over the stove from the stool on one foot.

This one looks like a similar split to Amira's, and, like hers, a cold compress seemed to stop the bleeding. It doesn't look quite as deep as hers, but that may just be because hers was at such a thin spot on the skin, while his has a little more room. Poor little man. So, Rich took him off to get stitches, neither of them has eaten dinner. We took him to the prompt care rather than the urgent care that is across the street, even though the urgent care has a pediatric department because for one, the urgent care is anything but prompt, and their billing is nightmarish and their parent hospital is well known for over billing, double billing, and other billing shenanagins (which we've had to deal with, since they are also have the specialty children's hospital where Elijah had his surgery). If you're in our area, go with Franciscan, not Multi-care (who also tried to block the new hospital being built on our side of the bridge, because it was Franciscan).

A year and a half after Elijah's surgery, our insurance had paid their portion, we had paid ours, we received a bill saying that they didn't charge us enough and we owed another $1200, they did not seem to agree with us that this was kind of their problem now that it was a year and a half later, and we'd already had to navigate their insane billing department which lost documents, sent inaccurate bills, double billed, etc. Most recently, we received two bills for one visit, for a regular visit, his post-op check up, one from the doctor, which we paid and another facility fee. We've done about eight of those visits, never having been charged a separate facility fee. When I called to ask why this was, since we had never been charged this fee before, I was told that the billing policy had changed in June. I asked why, the answer was because it changed. I said, yes, but why did it change, because in June it changed. Very helpful. We paid the bill (although it was addressed to Elijah, rather than one of us or the parents of, and we were highly tempted to let them try to collect it from him), just so we wouldn't have to deal with them anymore, and as we've learned to keep receipts and records scrupulously when dealing with them, we have a whole file ready for when they come at us in six months about it.

Anyway, back to Dominic. I'm hoping he'll be feeling up to eating the meal he helped make when he gets back. Please pray that he will heal quickly and with a relative lack of pain.

Update: They are on the way home, quick and easy, and Rich said the doctor was pretty funny, though a little quick for a seven year old who had just smashed his chin. Rich told him how we had decided not to use the place across the street, even though they had a pediatric center, and the doctor replied that although he'd done over a thousand cases like this, he was still waiting for the other doctors to come over and teach him how to do it on children. He asked Dominic how it happened, and Dominic kind of missing the point told him the story of how he was helping make dinner, and was giving him the long story. Which all people who deal with children regularly recognize as a child's way to confuse you about what he did. The doctor looked at him and said, "You were screwing around, weren't you?" Rich told him he wasn't familiar with that terminology, so he changed it to messing around, and asked if he hadn't been paying attention to what his parents told him. Dominic said yes, and was a brave little boy. As for the actual doctoring, he gave Dominic a quick shot, stitched him up, and said because he was such a trooper he could have more than one treat out of the goodie bag, which said take one and call me in the morning, so all his siblings have dessert courtesy of a nice doctor and Dominic's good behavior there.

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Finished and Friday

I can't get Mr. Linky to work on my computer here, so if you have any finished items, please leave a comment with a link to your blog.

I have finished three dishcloths in the last week, and one half of a pair of leg warmers for Amira. I crocheted two cotton sponges from this pattern last Thursday. Yesterday, I finished the four corners dishcloth, after quite a long time of wanting to make it. I did my graft backwards, but I do not care enough to redo it, so there you have it. I can't post photos right now, so you'll have to take my word.

Amira's leg warmers are moving rather quickly, though I am planning another pair with a little more detail to them. I'm using Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino in a ballet pink. It looks like out of the one skein, I should have enough to finish the leg warmers as well as make a bun warmer.

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Reverent and Risible

Rich told me that while Elijah was getting ready for bed the other night, he said very solemnly that when he died and went to heaven to meet God, "I think I will bow." Rich told him he thought that was very appropriate and reverent.

Elijah then went on to say that in the resurrection, when he gets a new body, he will have Riley's [our priest's fourth child] head, but still have Elijah's voice, and it will be so funny!

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Homemade Cleaning Supplies

You could clean your whole house as clean as you wanted it with baking soda, lemon juice, rubbing alcohol, vinegar, salt and water. It would take some serious elbow grease, but you could do it. I add non-sudsing ammonia, borax, washing soda, fels naptha soap and bleach (sparingly) to that (not all together, of course). I've been having fun making my own cleaning supplies lately.

About a month and a half ago, I tried this recipe for laundry detergent. We did a single batch, to try it out, see how it worked, if it gave anyone a rash, or if we hated the smell. We all liked it, and it worked at least as well as the stuff we bought at the store. It took about 20 minutes out of my day, and lasted over a month. It costs less than a quarter of what the cheap stuff from the grocery store costs (though part of that is that I use a third of a cup instead of the half cup she recommends). Today, the boys helped me make a double batch of it, which we expect to last at least two and a half months, possibly three months. Not bad for 20 minutes out of our day.

I also found several recipes for fabric softener, and have put together one that used a few elements of the recipes I saw.

2 cups baking soda
2 cups white vinegar
4 cups hot water
1/4 cup glycerin
40 drops essential oil (I use half lemon and half orange, because I like citrus scents and because they are just about the cheapest essential oils you can get, but this is completely optional)

Mix the baking soda and vinegar in a bottle (maybe your old fabric softener bottle). When it stops fizzing, add the hot water and glycerin and mix well. Stir in the essential oil, if you wish to use it. Add about a 1/4 cup to the rinse cycle in your washing machine, and you have nice soft clothes that still can absorb water (so you can use it on your towels) and it won't cause problems in your dryer. You'll have to shake it up before you use it, to make sure everything is mixed well. One of the places I read mentioned that you can cut up old wash cloths and soak them in some of your fabric softener, wring them out and dry them and use as you would dryer sheets. I haven't tried that yet.

When we got the honeybees last year, I picked up a book about canning with honey and another about products you can make with beeswax. There are several uses for beeswax in house cleaning, as well as cosmetic uses. I'm looking forward to making my own lip balm, as well as furniture polish. Recently I checked out a book from the library called Organic Housekeeping. I haven't finished it, so I can't recommend it yet, but I am enjoying the information, and what I've read so far has been helpful. I also found another great website with lots of homemade cleaning recipes.

People used to make these things because they were cheaper, or because they couldn't get anything else. Now there seems to be some cachet in doing these things because it's organic or good for the environment. It is cheaper, it won't kill your children or your plants or your livestock. It's kind of fun, and I get to do little science experiments with the children while we make them. Like mayonnaise has become a lesson in emulsion.

I'm still working on Rich about the cloth diapers and cloth wipes with a solution we make, at least for at home, but he's pretty adamant that he doesn't want to deal with the mess. Since he is quite happy to change diapers, and none of our children has been sensitive to the store brand diapers and wipes we use, I haven't pushed too hard. We did use cloth with Elijah at first, and it wasn't that big a deal at home (even for Rich), though it was kind of a pain when we were out, so I'm thinking part time cloth. The wipe recipe with paper towels wasn't thick enough for our master diaper changer and bottom wiper, so it would have to be cloth wipes.

If any of you have ideas about do it yourself cleaning supplies or cosmetics or hygiene, please pass it on.

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008

News

I normally post a bit more about Lent, and quite a bit about Easter, but because of our computer woes, I haven't had the chance.

We had a beautiful Triduum and Easter and then we packed up the family and took a vacation. Rich and I had a chance to spend some time in Oregon's wine country at a bed and breakfast, and we just took a break from work and school and home.

On Good Friday, we trudged up the hill for the Stations of the Cross, which is always the most moving for me. We didn't get our normal beautiful sunrise on Easter, but the service was wonderful, and afterward, the children still got to go hunt for eggs.

So now that we have had the highest holy day of the year, we are working our way to the next, which is Pentecost. Christmas actually comes in third.

We are looking for an interim computer, so I don't have to be stuck with this one for too long. We figure we'll get an inexpensive one that is just updated enough to be useful for us, and the children can practice their typing and computer skills on it, even after we get the computer we want for me. The one we thought we would get ended up dying on the operating table, so the computer fellow told us he wouldn't be able to sell it. This is too bad, as I was hoping to pick it up in the next couple weeks, but we'll keep looking.

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In Case You Were Wondering

It's a girl!

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