Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pie Day

Some of you may celebrate Thanksgiving Eve with family, or on the road to visit relatives. Some may watch football or go shopping. Here, the day before Thanksgiving is officially known as Pie Day.

It started out innocently enough; the day prior to the big turkey feast, I'd make a couple of from-scratch pies suitable to the occasion, and they'd join whoever was hosting Thanksgiving's dessert table. Three years ago, we decided to make the meal at our house, and we've stuck with that philosophy ever since. Now, on the day before Thanksgiving, I make five pies.

Do we really need five pies? This year five pies will be topping off the meal for six adults and five kids (I don't count the baby. Love him, but he's not getting his own pie.) I suppose we could get away with just two pies, but how do you choose?

Thanksgiving isn't Thanksgiving without classic pumpkin. I don't even like pumpkin pie, but others do and the meal would be a wash without it.

Then there's apple. You have to have apple pie on Thanksgiving. I'm pretty sure it's a law.

And you can't forget cherry. Having apple pie without cherry pie is like separating twins at birth. It's cruel and unusual.

Now that you've committed yourself to making three pies, you may as well make something creamy and delicious to complement the fruit pies - this is where peanut butter pie comes in. I like to make mine in a peanut butter cookie crust.

At this point you have a nice variety on the dessert table, but no chocolate. What's dessert without chocolate? Chocolate caramel pie rounds the day out so nicely.

Somehow, this year I also made a pumpkin gingersnap cheesecake. Because five pies wasn't enough.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

holiday deals

It's that time of year again : the dreaded shopping season. Duhn duhn duhn. You know that's my favorite activity to pursue with 4 kids in tow.

We've started being especially creative this year. With 3 of our 4 kids' birthdays crammed in a six-week timespan right before Christmas, and with nine nieces and a nephew to shop for, deals are a must. I will admit that we usually have the best intentions to "shop early" but this is the first year we've actually managed to get our acts together and start shopping before Thanksgiving. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

Today on BzzAgent I got the chance to join this new campaign for a website called What's Cheap Today.
I wish I had seen this before we started shopping! I'm not normally a fan of any of the new Web 2.0 sites that phish links from other sites, and that's what I was expecting. I was pleasantly surprised by this site! You truly can go here and see, quickly and prettily, which stores both online and locally have the best deals of the day. I thought I had found all of the deals out there on toys, so I was impressed to see a $10 off $100 or more K-Mart toy purchase listed on the What's Cheap Today site. Of course all of the deals that I had spent several hours researching were there too - but readily available without having to look all over the internet.

I look forward to using What's Cheap Today to finish the remainder of my Christmas shopping!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

halfway to sixteen

Half asleep and holding a squirming baby while being toed in the face by an upside-down-sleeping preschooler, I was greeted this morning by my husband who reminded me that it's our older daughter's birthday. "Just think," he said, "she's halfway to sixteen."

The bed never seemed so inviting. I never, ever wanted to leave it.

Alas, the morning started whether I was ready for it or not, and the statement is true : today, Ibis is eight. Our blonde-haired, blue-eyed, havoc-wreaking little girl is eight years old. Eight. That's like officially not a baby anymore. Not a little kid. Eight is halfway to sixteen.

I can still recall when Ibis was a tiny baby. Okay, so tiny is a relative term. She was almost 9 and a half pounds and a natural delivery. I really never envisioned myself being the mother of anyone with blue eyes (and that's actually happened twice now) and find it pretty funny that we named her after a blue-eyed bird. 

Today, we will have cake and gifts. She ordered a buttermilk cake with raspberry frosting. Well, first she ordered an apple pie but decided last minute to go with cake. And I say ordered as though we drove to some bakery somewhere - the only person she ordered around was me. And I'm happy to oblige. Cake photos to come later.  We'll have a special dinner with family, and on Saturday she'll have a party with a few friends. 

I'm still not ready for that one. 

Saturday, November 13, 2010

new and improved!

Have you ever tried cramming two kids who couldn't be more different, one of whom has serious sensory issues, into one small space to try to create something like an art project? And had a third kid set up inches away at a desk with no extra space for art supplies, while yet another kid circles below, grabbing whatever falls within his reach?


Well, that won't be me anymore either. Today, I had an epiphany. And the sudden, unexpected gain of our dining room table.

This nifty new setup forms a space-maximizing T shape, which allows plenty of room for multiple personalities to work and create without driving each other crazy.

Well, with less craziness anyway. One can dream. And now no one is left down within a certain little someone's destructive reach. Ahem.

So innocent-looking.

But what's that you're asking? What about our dining room?

That is a gorgeous Ethan Allen dining room set that hubby spied at a yard sale this morning, and we snagged for $100. It also has a leaf to make it Thanksgiving-dinner-sized. The table alone sells new on Ethan Allen's website for $1000. I do wish they'd had 6 chairs instead of 4, but I'm not complaining!

And that is why we love yard sales.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010


Sometimes the learning just seems to script itself. It's funny how that works : we're conditioned to believe that "school" is a place and a time, a set of books and a lesson plan. But learning is taking place ALL the time. Kids are absorbing ideas and values from everything they're seeing and hearing. How we as parents choose to use this truth determines what our children ultimately get out of their education.

Take, for example, our morning trip to the grocery store. Wednesday is our night to plan and cook dinner (Yes, I have a husband who cooks very well. Better than me. And he likes to cook. Be jealous.) So the kids and I had to reach an agreement on what to make. We all voted for homemade pizza, salad, and cinnamon rolls. Staple ingredients were checked, a list was created, our coupons were sifted through, and we perused the 2 local grocery sale ads online to see who had the better deal on bagged lettuce and mozzarella.

At the store, Coral and Hobie rode in one of those ridiculous, impossible-to-steer shopping carts where the front half is a big plastic race car. Lesson in physics right there! As we gathered our purchases, the kids spotted the signs over the aisles and could pick out where our groceries would be. We compared prices per ounce and decided what was the better deal. In line, Alexei estimated our total cost and Ibis was in charge of handing the coupons to the cashier and getting the change. Then we practiced bargaining skills deciding to whom the change belonged.

Once home, Alexei did the bulk of the work starting the dough for the cinnamon rolls - nothing gets a boy motivated like the promise of sweets, and the thought that yeast makes dough rise because of gas. I swear the mere mention of a possible potty joke is enough to keep an almost-ten-year-old boy going for days. No pun intended. Who says a boy's place isn't in the kitchen?

Better make that a boys' place.

While the dough was rising, we plowed through math lessons and had lunch. Then the kids moved on to their big map project and learned all about Connecticut - but that's another post. Mostly because I forgot to take pictures. They also began their postcard project and penned several cards to other homeschool families willing to trade cards from Maryland and Arizona.

I think both kids will understand postcards a little more when they start rolling in. Right now it's this pleasant-sounding, rather foreign concept, where we actually get mail in the mailbox that we want, which isn't a bill or advertisement. Actually this is a pleasant-sounding, rather foreign concept to me, too.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent rolling dough, baking cinnamon rolls, proofing pizza dough, and a flurry of pushing kids on swings, entertaining neighborhood kids, and finishing up dinner. Coral sneaked in under the radar of the big kids and got some cooking time in, too. Give the child a rolling pin and she could be happy for hours.

The kids lost interest in what I was doing when their public-schooled comrades came home, but that's okay. Being a kid is about far more than sitting at a desk with a worksheet; play and friendship are the real teachers.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

New Jersey

Today the Garden State, tomorrow the world!

Okay, so maybe that's an exaggeration. Tomorrow is actually Connecticut. But today, we forged on through our third state, New Jersey, capital Trenton, home to the infamous Atlantic City. Hubby spent a large chunk of his childhood in south Jersey, so this particular state had greater meaning to our family.

We also lucked out and got our New Jersey tourism guide in the mail on the same day we were working on the state. Two down, forty-eight to go! I owe the mailman a Christmas gift.

Interesting fact : New Jersey is one of the premier glass-manufacturing capitals in the world.

Over the weekend we picked up a fun assortment of postcards to exchange with other kids around the U.S.

We also bought stamps for the first time in.....uhhh.....whenever stamps last cost 39 cents. Eons ago.

Monday, November 8, 2010

fun free downloadable game for pre-K

If your kids are anything like mine, they are suckers for anything that involves the computer. Of course they all love the online toy-oriented games like the Lego website. My oldest even has some sort of crazy "business" on his Lego account where he trades X amount of apples for an apple pie. Or something.

But what about the pre-K set? If you have a child ages 2-4 who has never really done anything on a computer, letting them play games online can be a challenge. You will invariably have to help them every step of the way or they will accidentally click on the advertisements, other page links, your bookmarks, and before you know it, they've added Likes to your facebook account (true story!)

There's a better way. If you live in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, South Carolina, or Tennessee (home to Publix grocery stores), or can borrow a friend or relative's address from those states, you can register online for a free Publix Preschool Pals account. In addition to coupons and newsletters, you can download their Preschool Pals game! This used to be available on CD back when my oldest was a preschooler; we had given up the idea of playing it since it required ancient Mac (or PC) platforms for it to work, and our new Intel Mac didn't support the software. Happily, Publix has recently updated the game and the new download is the same great game but works on newer computers!

So what do you get for your download? Most importantly, a game that occupies your entire screen and doesn't allow little hands to stray onto other web pages. The game includes seven fun zones and introduces preschool concepts like early counting, listening skills, the alphabet, food groups, and art to your child with surprisingly good graphics and sound for a freebie. Children play three levels of each game and earn coins every time they complete a level. The levels are a short three-question set to keep even the shortest attention spans engaged. This is definitely worth the effort to have on your computer.

And you'll probably start having the urge to pick up something from the deli at Publix.

Friday, November 5, 2010

November is Prematurity Awareness Month

This is pretty important stuff : currently, 1 in 8 babies is born before 37 weeks' gestation. It's also pretty personal for us. In 2007, our daughter Coral was born at 30 weeks. She spent six weeks in the NICU and came home on prescription caffeine and an apnea monitor, just a hair over four pounds.

I encourage everyone to do what they can to support The March of Dimes. Even a little goes a long way in helping the cause. The March of Dimes not only engages in programs to help prevent prematurity, but it also funds research and developments to help babies who are born preterm in spite of the best prenatal care. We never expected to need any of that technology, but we certainly were grateful when the unexpected happened to our third child.

The following is Coral's birth story. I hope you'll take a moment to read and understand what parents of premature babies are struggling through every day. Also, I hope you'll see what joy our experience brought to us.

"Ours isn't the most miraculous story you'll ever read - we don't have the world's youngest surviving preemie, or the smallest, and she isn't a quintuplet or even a twin. However, she is our own private little miracle and our lives will never again be the same. In spite of all the pain and fear and tortuous hours of uncertainty, our preemie experience has been nothing short of amazing.

I became pregnant with our third child in late August of 2006; she was due May 3rd, 2007 and we all expected a normal pregnancy after 2 very uneventful rounds with her brother and sister. At first things were peachy. I had minimal morning sickness, tolerable cravings, and little weight gain. I was in maternity clothes quite soon but was thrilled to don them. An initial ultrasound at 9 weeks showed one little healthy baby; our son wanted a brother, our daughter wanted a sister, and we were thrilled with either option. The weeks dragged on as we waited for the 'big' ultrasound at 18 weeks. Ours was scheduled just 4 days before Christmas. What a special gift to see our baby and hopefully find out the gender!

In retrospect, as the weeks slipped by towards our 18-week appointment, things were amiss. I didn't have a large appetite, and had no taste for sweets, which is simply unheard of for me. I made hundreds of Christmas cookies to give to friends and family and could not bear the thought of eating even one of them. I couldn't stand for more than a few minutes without feeling as though I had the flu. I felt like I was 9 months pregnant instead of 4. I honestly wondered if we'd see an unexpected twin at our ultrasound.

Finally the day had come. The whole family squeezed in to the ultrasound room while the tech made her initial measurements. My son had us all in fits of laughter when he declared in all seriousness that he saw a claw on the screen. We were thrilled to pieces when we found out we were having another girl! We also were unaware that our OB's machine was a 4-D machine, and it was breathtaking seeing her, looking so real and baby-like inside of me.

Minutes later, clutching a few precious pictures of our daughter, I sat in the OB's exam room for my appointment. It was then that he informed me something was amiss. The placenta was twice as thick as it was supposed to be. He didn't seem alarmed but told me he would be setting up an appointment for me with a maternal-fetal specialist at a high-tech diagnostics center. My heart sank. What on earth did this mean?

Over the next 10 weeks, we had no real answers. I had multiple high-level ultrasounds, all of which showed an apparently healthy baby girl and a very unusual placenta. The placenta grew to be almost 4 times thicker than even the thickest placenta should have been - what would have been noteworthy at 5 cm was a full 19.4cm thick. It was also splitting into fluid-filled layers and calcifying. Multiple specialists were involved with the ultrasounds and the best conclusion they reached was, "We've never seen anything like this before." This is NOT what you want to hear from the people in charge of your care.

We did blood tests for infections of every variety, full histories to verify that I never smoked, did drugs, drank alcohol, was exposed to anything abnormal, or did anything else that might solve the puzzle. There was simply nothing to point a finger at, and no conclusions to be drawn. The placenta was a ticking timebomb. When would it die? When would it get so large it broke down? Could it supply adequate food and oxygen to the baby?

Nobody could or would tell me anything. I was sick with worry, and sick from the diseased placenta. I searched endlessly online for cases similar to mine and didn't find much. What was out there spoke of genetic defects, often fatal; miscarriages; deforming syndromes; growth retardation; and more poorly understood mysteries. Nobody ever suggested these things to me but surely something had to match with what I had. 

By the start of February, I was a physical mess. Where my past 2 pregnancies had found me vibrant and excited at this stage,  I was barely able to function. Merely walking about the house left me dizzy and exhausted. My appetite was minimal; I had to force myself to eat and even to drink. Yet at night sleep eluded me. I would sit in the living room in agony, itching all over my body. Benadryl and antihistamine creams had zero effects. By week 27 of pregnancy, my blood pressure was shooting up and I was placed on medication. My abdomen was measuring almost 40 weeks. I had no idea how I was going to make it through the third trimester.

We reached week 29. My blood pressure was still high and I was suffering from abdominal cramps. On Monday I turned in a 24-hour urine specimen to be analyzed for protein and the telltale signs of preeclampsia. On Tuesday I had another specialist ultrasound, which showed an apparently healthy baby measuring 3lb, 4oz and a bizarre but unchanged placenta, with the addition of extra amniotic fluid. On Wednesday we had an OB appointment; he walked into the room, glanced at my chart, and told us I needed to get to the hospital immediately. My protein count was a +3, my liver enzymes were elevated, and my platelets were dropping. Our jaws dropped.

Wednesday evening we checked in to the hospital; I couldn't stop trembling in fear. That night, once hooked up to the monitors, it was apparent that I was in labor and contracting with regularity. All night and into Thursday morning, magnesium sulfate was pumped into my veins to control the preeclamptic reactions as well as to try and stall labor. I saw the doctor who would be our baby's main neonatologist, and he promised me 90% of 30-weekers survived. Ten percent odds had never loomed so large. I received my 2 steroid shots to mature the baby's lungs in 24 hours, and Thursday evening, 30 weeks pregnant, it was decided that we'd let nature take its course. 

Coral was born at 1:28 am on February 23rd, 10 weeks short of her May 3rd due date. I saw my OB hold her up and she was small but still looked like a perfect little baby. She gave a little cry and no sound was sweeter. They immediately took her over to a warming bed staffed with a host of doctors, and I could not see her but knew she was there. I didn't know how she was or what they were doing to her.

Suddenly none of it mattered. The neonatologist came over and told us she was breathing and looked okay so far, and they were taking her to the NICU. I was unprepared when a nurse brought over this tiny wrapped up bundle and laid her atop my chest. She was the most beautiful, perfect little 3 pound, 3 ounce doll I'd ever seen. Lips trembling, I gave her a tiny kiss on the forehead before they whisked her away. The tears flooded as the room emptied out. The doctors all departed, the lights were dimmed down, and a nurse wandered in and out. We were left there, without our baby and without any idea of what was to come. We had no idea if she had a genetic defect or other problem in synch with the placenta.

We were briefly reunited at 4 in the morning. I was whisked into the NICU in a wheelchair, husband by my side. Baby Coral looked so tiny and helpless in this big scary isolette. She was attached to all these different wires going every which way, IV's in her hand and foot, cannula crossing her tiny face. She was clad in a diaper, which covered the majority of her stomach and legs as well as her behind. Her skin was an angry red. 

It was terrifying. I could not stop crying. I was overwhelmed by a torrent of emotions, including relief that she was alive and paralyzing helplessness that she was trapped in a plastic box, crying, and I couldn't do a thing to comfort her. According to the neonatologist who had spoken with me 2 nights before, one in ten 30 weekers didn't survive. We'd been sitting in the delivery room for 3 hours, wondering if she'd be that one in ten. Seeing her alive was such sweet relief I couldn't catch my breath. We put our hands through the isolette portholes and touched her tiny toes for the first time. My hands were shaking so hard I was petrified I'd hurt her or disturb some piece of medical equipment. I had no idea what was being done to her, or how stable she was. We were surrounded by other babies in their isolettes, multitudes of machinery, and a half dozen busy nurses and respiratory therapists, but had never felt so alone.

It was another 12 hours before I got to see Coral again. I spent time alone in my hospital room, 6 floors above the NICU in the wing designated for mothers with sick babies. The effect was intended to insulate grieving women from hearing other babies crying, but the silence was eerie and depressing. My husband was out trying to comfort our other children and pick up my mother from the airport. I was stuck in my room until I was more stable from the effects of pre-eclampsia and medication. I was unable fully to make the connection that I'd had the baby and was no longer pregnant.

I spent a very long weekend in my room, in pain, heart broken and hurting. Much of the time I was alone. My older daughter was extremely upset and talking to her on the phone was excruciating. Neither of the kids understood what was going on. I was worried sick about them, and when my husband was at the hospital to keep me company, I fretted that my extended family was watching over them instead of me. I desperately wanted to be home.

At the same time, I had a baby in the hospital. I was able to pump colostrum for her and the doctors had begun feeding her by gavage (stomach tube). I would visit her every few hours, taking the trip on shaky legs down the elevator and to the third floor. I still wore a hospital gown; we hadn't really taken the time or had the intuition to pack much when we'd left for the hospital, and after Coral was born we were in too much shock to think of something as simple as clean clothing for me. I didn't even have shampoo for a shower, although cleanliness was the last thing on my mind.

Sunday morning, I was considered stable enough to go home. I was more than eager to be leaving the hospital room and was desperate to be home with my kids. Mentally I knew I had a child a few floors below but emotionally I was stuck on thinking of 'my kids' as the older 2 waiting at home for me. 

My husband, mom, and kids came to pick me up from the hospital. We visited Coral briefly, taking turns watching the older 2 in the waiting area. The drive home was surreal - it was sunny and warm, a typical Florida in February. I could see all the colors as we whizzed along the highway, and feel the air blowing on my face, and hear my mom and husband talking and the kids jabbering, but everything was flat. It was like looking at a faded 2-D drawing. I felt like I was suspended in time and place in my OB's office 4 afternoons before,  when he told us we needed to get to the hospital right away. I was in shock and feeling empty of any thoughts or emotions.

We came home to a house completely empty of any baby things; it looked as though I'd never been pregnant. We hadn't had time to buy a crib, toys, or necessities; our only purchase had been a travel system and it was still sitting in our garage. My body was extremely weak and I could barely stand but I shrugged off my mom's help and staggered around the kitchen, making lunch for the kids just like any other day. Everyone kept telling me to rest, to take it easy, but I couldn't make myself sit still.

It wasn't until that evening that I broke down. My husband had made dinner and I was sitting on our couch watching some mundane television show that suddenly held no interest. He placed my plate in my lap and I took a bite, and as I swallowed suddenly felt empty, hollow, gutted out. In an instant I knew that I had had the baby and she was no longer nestled safe inside of me. What I had always known mentally became known in my heart.

The tears poured out and could not be stopped. I cried and cried and ached so painfully in my heart, in my empty womb, in my empty arms. I grieved for my baby. It is not natural for a mother to leave her baby, to not have her baby with her to see and smell and feel and nurture. At 2 in the morning it dawned on me that I was grieving for Coral like she had died, and not like she was in the hospital. I immediately stepped up with pumping breastmilk, which helped my hormones tell my body, there's a baby here that's alive and being nourished by you. 

As the days wore on, we quickly became versed in NICU lingo and process. We would enter the 3rd floor lobby, present our baby ID bracelet and collect our name badges, and head through the double doors to the scrub sinks. For three minutes we would scrub with an antibacterial soap, dry, and brace ourselves for our entry into the Level III (critical) NICU. We'd spot the doorway with our baby's paper heart, emblazoned with our last name, stuck up with the other hearts of the babies sharing our room. 

She'd be there, snuggled on her stomach in her isolette in a little shapeable padded bar and strap system that looked like a little nest. She had 3 leads attached to her skin on chest, stomach, and leg to measure heartbeat and respiration; one lead on her side to monitor her temperature; an IV with 3 or 4 tubings trailing off to liquid nutrition, vitamins, and medications; a nasal cannula taped to her face and attached to a scary-looking blue tube and a humidifying machine to provide oxygen; and a thin gastric tube taped to her chin and running into her stomach for feedings. Plus she was surrounded by a sea of pinging, beeping, alarming machinery to monitor everything attached to her, and there were other babies around us with the same and more. It was dizzying.

The next 6 weeks were long and hard. We would get to spend a precious hour and a half with our baby every evening. On day 5 we held her for the first time. We missed the first diaper change, the first bath, the first nipple feeding. We saw our daughter pierced in every conceivable body part by IV's, by quests for blood to monitor blood sugar and blood counts and infections. We dealt with wonderful,  caring nurses and the occasional nurse who sometimes kept us from holding our daughter when we were there simply because our baby was not next on the schedule.

We took two steps forward, one step back (and sometimes three or four steps back) several times with worries over a hole in her heart; back and forth on oxygen and problems remembering to breathe; stopping and starting feedings; weight loss all the way down to 2 1/2 pounds; and all the typical preemie troubles. It was so hard going to the NICU each night and not knowing if the news would be great or scary - maybe she'd be off the oxygen or maybe she'd have a blood infection. I had a hard time sharing the daily news with friends and family because I had the insane notion they'd be disappointed on the bad days.

During the NICU stay our lives pretty much ground to a halt. Things lose all meaning when you have a child lying in uncertainty in a hospital room. You forget how to talk to people who aren't going through what you're experiencing. Friends offer time and again to help with meals, with childcare, and you can't even manage to tell them you need a meal on Wednesday or to please watch the kids on Tuesday night. Just that tiny task seems insurmountable. You try to keep your mind on your job or business and it wanders right back to reliving those last weeks of pregnancy, or scrutinizing every detail of the whole 6 1/2 months, or you're on the internet reading every last scrap, the good and bad, of others' preemie experiences. 

You are infuriated that some people can treat themselves so poorly and have such a healthy baby that they take for granted while you tried so hard and your baby is in the hospital, future in the air, and you'd give anything to have her back in your belly. You cry as you sit in the hospital, waiting for the NICU to open, and watch mom after mom be wheeled out of the hospital, big healthy newborn in arms, ready to go home. You have no idea when it will be your turn. Every night you gaze longingly at that crib you had to buy after your baby was born, and you stroke the rail and the empty mattress, and you pick up the pretty pink blanket you bought before you had a preemie and curl up in a ball with it and cry yourself to sleep at night.

Finally our baby girl came home after 40 days in the NICU. Exactly 6 weeks, almost to the hour, since we left our OB's office, we were headed home with our little 4lb, 2oz wonder. She was unbelievably tiny and fragile, still attached to an apnea monitor 24/7 for those first few weeks. She pretty much lived in my arms, in the sling, and at the breast. She was the size of our older daughter's 15" baby doll; Ibis would actually steal Coral's clothes to fit her dolls. 

Coral quickly thrived. At her due date she was a respectable 5lb 15oz. Her heart was mostly mended (Coral does still have a small defect that has to be monitored), her eyes were fine, and she filled out. She had no problems breastfeeding full-time and it became apparent that her personality included a love of being held and lots of smiles. She hit all the normal milestones for her corrected age and by 6 months was a whopping 13lb 4oz. By a year she was up to 17lb 11oz, saying 20 words and just learning the tricks of forward motion. She surprised us all by taking her first steps at 18 months old.

Our entire family is more in love with Coral than we ever could have imagined. Having a preemie was absolutely the hardest thing we have ever done, but there's not one moment we would give back. Because she was born early and spent 6 weeks in the hospital, we don't take anything for granted. Every smile, every word, every preschool tantrum is met with a silent thank you that she's here and well. Coral is our miracle and we couldn't be more proud of her!"


Our second state was The Keystone State! Pennsylvania became a state just 5 days after Delaware, in December of 1787.

Interesting fact : Pennsylvania marks the start of the Ohio River. Irony.

Next up : New Jersey. I look forward to that interesting fact!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Yesterday, we explored our first state : The First State! Delaware, capital Dover, one of the smallest states on the map but packed with people.

Our interesting fact for the day : Delaware has a body of water called Little Assawoman Bay.

I'll give you a minute to stop laughing and breathe. How could we never have known this before yesterday? That seems like crucial information to me!

Here was the start of our scrapbook entry; Alexei is responsible for finding and recording all of the info for the two left pages for each state, and Ibis for neatly coloring and cataloguing the page on the right. We'll also add neat photos from our tourism brochures as they arrive, and postcards from other homeschooling families. Alexei will also add a rubbing of the state quarter when we find it; where's a Delaware quarter when you need one?

Note - You can find links to all of the great sites we used to gather our facts, print out page templates, and play fun geography and coin games to the right, under Fifty States links.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Halloween post-sugar-coma

Did you have as much fun on Halloween weekend as we did? We were bound and determined to pack as much activity, excitement, and chaos into the past three days as was humanly possible.

First, there was the homeschool Halloween party + mini fall festival (if you'll recall, this was cancelled the previous Friday, although we went exploring anyway).

On Saturday morning we baked festive sugar cookies with the kids; the oldest three got to cut out and decorate their creations as Hobie looked on. Many, many sprinkles lost their lives in the line of duty.

We then made a detour to Grandpa and Nana's for some costume viewing and advance trick-or-treating action. Grandpa had bought a box of thirty full-size candy bars; we raided accordingly. After that was a Halloween open house party at my brother's house. His lovely wife had baked up all sorts of goodies and the kids spent several hours wreaking havoc with their cousins.

Finally, it was Sunday. The pumpkin was carved, costumes donned yet again, and the kids and several of their friends were ready for the real deal. There's something about mountains of candy that gets them motivated!

And now we have such a frighteningly short time until Christmas. And about 57 birthdays between now and then. Because we tried to cram as many births as possible into the shortest amount of time.