Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Keeping Track of Mommy

Several weeks ago I spent the afternoon at a busy new playground with my kids. The playground was so large and so full of children that it was all I could do to try to keep a headcount on all four children. I spent the day saying, "There's Toby...and there's Naomi and, where's Emma? Oh, OK, there's Emma. Now where did Toby go?" Over and over I counted their heads, or their shoes or shirt or whatever body part I could see across the equipment and through the crowds of children.

On one round through their names I was hung-up for a few seconds longer than normal looking for Emma, and by the time I spied her in a tunnel and went back to looking for Toby he had completely vanished. I spent ten seconds more scanning the equipment, then called out to Naomi and Hannah, but they hadn't seen him either. After he'd been missing about thirty seconds my heart began to race. I walked quickly around the entire playground, but he was nowhere. I hurriedly scanned the trees surrounding the park, and finally spotted him wandering off among the trees and down a hill. He was whimpering to himself, "Mommy! Mommy, Mom-my!" When I called out to him and he saw me a huge grin crossed his face. He came running at full speed and threw his arms around me.

"Toby," I scolded him, "You can't leave the playground! Mommy will not leave without you. If you can't find me you stay at the playground, but do not leave Mommy!" He sat with me on a bench for awhile, then asked to play again, and so I gave him the speech once more. "Yes, you may play, but stay where you can see me. Don't leave Mommy!" He agreed, and obeyed, and now I wish I had put an expiration date on that directive, because two weeks later he still won't let me leave his sight.

This incident has touched off a whole new round of separation anxiety that he hasn't felt since he was a tiny toddler. Toby now refuses to attend his Sunday School class and he pouts at being left in the nursery. He is upset and nervous if he suddenly can't see me in the house, and melts in fear if I should leave him with Matt to go shopping. On Matt's last day off I left for less than two hours for a doctor's appointment. Toby was so insecure that he sat on a folding chair beside Matt in Matt's office almost the entire time, including when he should have gotten up to use the bathroom. Matt was less than thrilled with the puddle under his pouting son.

Toby's fear of losing me is gradually diminishing, but he was worried again last night when I told him that I wouldn't be home when he woke in the morning. I needed to leave at 6:00am to go for a fasting gestational diabetes screening, and a family friend whom Toby knows well would be here when the kids woke up. "Toby, I have to go to the doctor in the morning, but I will come home again for lunch," I said cheerily, then reassured him again, "Mommy always comes home."

His lower lip snuck out a little, but I didn't realize how upset he was until he woke crying at 3:00am this morning. When I went in to console him, his hand reached out and caught mine in the dark. "Mommy," he whimpered, "make sure you don't go to the doctor."

I laughed a little and gave him an extra-tight hug. "Toby, I'm going to bed right now. You will be fine, I promise." And, I believe to his surprise, he was fine this morning while I was away.

With the last few months of pregnancy closing in, it's time for Toby to stretch his wings again, but it also reminds me that the extra few snuggles of the past two weeks may not ever come again. Maybe one or two more days of clinging to Mommy would be alright.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Held Against My Will...In the Men's Bathroom

Yes, I was in the men's bathroom at church today. Yes, I knew it was the men's bathroom. No, I didn't want to be there. I was forced.

Mari and I were washing up and loading the dishwasher after fellowship meal when Toby came to me and announced that his pull-up was poopy. "Toby, go tell Daddy," I ordered, spying Matt across the room talking with some friends. I kept rinsing and loading, but Toby wouldn't move.

"No, I want Mommy," he insisted.

"Well then you're going to have to wait, Toby. Mommy's busy," I answered firmly. That'll teach him to be picky, right? A moment later I glanced down to see Toby looking questioningly at his hand, which was covered in poop.

I seized his wrist and drug him over to Matt. "Matt!" I interrupted, "I need a pull-up and wipes now!" Matt instantly realized the gravity of the situation, grabbed Toby by both wrists and held him up in the air.

Matt's friend, however, was skeptical. "So Toby didn't get into the brownies?" he asked.

"Um, no, that's not brownies," I assured him, grabbing the pull-up and wipes and following my husband. "Matt, where are you going?" I asked, fearing his answer.

"Just come in with me, no one's in here," he snapped back, still swinging Toby by his wrists as he pushed open the door to the men's bathroom.

"No one's in there now, but someone might come in," I said, reluctantly kneeling on the floor and wiping Toby down, "and I don't really feel comfortable with that."

Matt rolled his eyes at me as he washed his hands." Clearly, they'll see what's going on and they won't care," he replied.

"Yeah, after they recover from the shock," I countered. "How comfortable would you feel being in the women's bathroom when a woman walked in?"

"I would feel very comfortable!" he insisted.

"Well, great. Next time you're coming in there with me. Now, Toby's all wiped up and I'm leaving. You can put his pull-up on and wash his hands," I retorted.

"Kathy, you're being ridiculous," Matt called out as I left the restroom.

But another greeting entirely met me on the other side of the door. "Hey! What are you doing in there?!" the pastor called out loud enough for the entire room to hear.

And with all eyes on me, I attempted to acquit myself, "My husband forced me against my will! Toby was covered in poop and Matt made me come in with him." But in case there were still lingering doubts in any one's mind, I have recorded the full story here as record of my innocence. And if any of you ladies ever find Matt in the women's restroom, well, I was just returning the favor.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

God Gladly Bends

Rich Mullins wrote a little-known song once for a baby girl named Madeline who was born prematurely and never made it home from the hospital. He insisted that though Madeline was tiny and helpless she was always praying.

Madeline fusses and Madeline laughs
The angels in heaven say, "Hey, look at that!
There's your faith
Mountains will quake"
'Cause God gladly bends
Just to hear Madeline
When she prays

I've always wanted to teach my children that lesson: that God gladly bends to hear them pray. But then life comes in. Right now I'm in the achy-body, fuzzy-headed, short-of-breath phase of pregnancy, and it can be so easy for me to derail from the track of intentional child training. It's strange how God helps us sometimes.

Last Saturday night I hit a low. Matt's car had been out of service for three weeks while we weighed our options for fixing it, which meant I was putting in extra time driving him to and from work on the days I needed our van, and we were putting lots of extra money into the gas tank. Matt was working overtime out of an office that our church lets him use to sell some things on the Internet for a little extra income. And then our dryer broke. Tempted as I was to sink to a frazzled state of self-pity, a strange thing happened. I almost smiled because we've seen over and over in our lives that it's just the times that things look the darkest that God is actually the nearest. He's just getting our attention. And I knew it was time for my girls to learn that lesson.

After attempting to tear the dryer apart and finding myself only unsuccessfully grimy, I herded the kids up the stairs and tucked them in their beds. "Girls," I began, "tonight Mommy's going to change the routine a little. Instead of just thanking God for something tonight I want you each to ask God to help us fix our dryer, and fix Daddy's car, and for a better job for Daddy."

"Why do we all have to pray for the same thing?" Hannah questioned. So I told her the story of the persistent widow, and I told her how much God loves to hear his children lay their needs before him, and how much it honors him when we trust him to provide for us. I told them that I wanted each of them to pray, so that when God answered they could know that God answers Naomi and Hannah and Emma when they pray. Of course we talked, as we often have before, of how God does not grant us everything we ask for, and how he often has better plans than the ones we have, but I felt confident that this evening's circumstances were just an invitation to ask and watch God work. They prayed the most simple, sweet, sincere prayers, and I came downstairs refreshed.

The rest of the story for our dryer was in my post "Mrs. Fix-It." Solving and fixing that problem within three days for $30 was answer to prayer number one. Tuesday night we also got a phone call from the volunteer mechanic clinic that a local church runs once a week. These men were able to fix Matt's car for the cost of parts only--donating their labor, and cutting the cost of repairs down from $1000 to $500. We picked Matt's car up on Wednesday, the answer to prayer number two. And this week Matt has had two phone interviews with The American Red Cross for a job that would be much closer to home and much better paying. He will interview in person for that on Tuesday. Whichever way that interview goes, I had more than enough evidence to present to my girls at bedtime last night.

"Girls, do you remember the prayers you prayed last Saturday night with Mommy?" I asked. "What did you ask God for?"

Naomi smiled and answered, "To help us fix the dryer, and fix Daddy's car, and for Daddy to have a better job."

"And do you think God heard you pray?"
"Well, the dryer is working, and so is Daddy's car, and Daddy's talking with some people about a new job," she summed up.

"Naomi, don't ever forget that," I said, "God loves to hear you pray."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Naomi reads "The Secret Garden"

When she found Hannah looking at "The Secret Garden," Naomi offered to read it aloud to her sister, even though she's read it two times before. Naomi is only seven years old and just beginning 2nd grade, but she has no trouble reading this book. If only I could get her to slow down and use a little more inflection.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Mrs. Fix-It

Last night Matt was away for the evening, but I had it all under control. Feeling more ambitious than usual I bathed the kids, scrubbed the kitchen, and vacuumed the house. I just needed to grab a load of laundry from the basement before I tucked the kids in bed.

I furrowed my brow and stared at the mostly wet laundry inside the dryer. I knew I had started that load last night before bed. A few of the clothes on top of the pile were dry, but underneath was a wet mass. I shrugged, reset the dial, started the machine up again, and turned to go up the stairs. Just at the bottom of the stairs it occurred to me that the motor was running, but the dryer wasn't tumbling. I opened the dryer door and checked: warm air, motor sound, but no movement. Then I did what any sensible person would do: spun the drum around by hand a few times, then lifted the machine up by an inch in front and let it slam back down to the floor a couple times. When that failed to make the drum turn I had only one option. I called my dad.

"I only spent $100 for it on Craig's List anyway," I reminded my dad. "Maybe I just need to get back on Craig's List and try my luck again."

"Well..." my dad thought out loud, "If there's warm air and it sounds like the motor's running it might be something simple to fix like a belt. That squeaking noise it's been making tells me the belt might have broken. Why don't you just take the back off and see if you can see the belt?"

Aren't those just famous last words? "Why don't you just...?" Now how hard could that be? Just pop a couple screws out and look. Sure Dad, no problem.

The back, however, was not secured by a few screws, but by nine tiny hex-bolts, and my ratchet set was missing. I fumbled with a mini crescent wrench while pinching the phone between my ear and shoulder. Toby busily worked beside me picking up the bolts as I set them down, and sticking a Philip's screwdriver through every slot he could find on the back of the machine. The bolts on the bottom presented a peculiar challenge as being six months pregnant renders it impossible to bend at the waist anymore. I ended up sitting on the filthy basement floor in a pile of lint and spider webs, but I finally got that stubborn back off.

Unfortunately, this profited me very little, since the dryer was apparently not supposed to be serviced from the back. I had gained access to the gas heat shield, the lint-trap shoot, and a mass of lint-covered wires, but no drum or belt was visible. I was about to give up when I remembered that the top had come loose when I was lifting the dryer up and slamming it on the floor. "I think the top flips open, actually, Dad," I said. "Maybe I can see from there." With two more screws removed I was able to flip the top up, but I had a hard time determining if the belt was around the drum since I have never seen a dryer belt before.

About this time I was completely covered in grime and Toby stepped on my last nerve when he climbed on top on a laundry basket, fell off, grabbed my shirt for support, and ripped the ties off the back of my shirt. I was dirty, defeated, had three itchy spider bites, and was ready to find myself a new dryer on Craig's List.

After a quick story, prayers, and a song, the kids were tucked in bed and my spirit revived enough to try Googling my problem. After twelve or fifteen web-pages I finally found a tutorial on how to replace the belt on my model of dryer. I had been on the right track with opening the top. Only two more bolts held the front of the dryer on. Unfortunately, I didn't realize that a drum full of wet laundry would come sliding out when the front came off.

But with my dryer in four pieces I was finally able to spy the problem. There, on the bottom of the dryer-shell lay a snapped dryer belt, and I was suddenly promoted to "Do-It-Yourself Genius." I called my dad, who congratulated me and instructed me on ordering a new belt. The online tutorial showed me how to reroute the belt, and advised me to also replace the idler pulley, which indeed looks faulty and probably caused the snapped belt.

Tomorrow I'll call the local appliance store to compare prices to the online stores, but one way or another I am only a few short days away from having an operational dryer again for about $30...if I can remember how everything goes back together.

Matt returned about 10:30pm and remarked, "Did you vacuum? Wow, I didn't expect that." That wasn't all he didn't expect.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Acetone Shampoo Removes the Glue

I set out the juice cups, vitamins, baggies of cereal, and diaper bag on Monday night, but Tuesday morning was still chaos. I was supposed to wash Emma's hair before her procedure that morning, so into the tub she went, still half asleep, for a 60 second bath. We rushed out the door to get Matt to work on time by 9:00am (still down to one vehicle), then found ourselves two towns away with an hour and a half to kill before Emma's appointment. After examining the vacuums, fish tanks, and garden center at Wal-Mart it was finally time to head to the hospital.

We checked in for Emma's 24 hour ambulatory EEG and watched some Sesame Street as we waited for the technician to call us back. She stood silent a moment when she entered the waiting room. "Um...I'm not sure what we're going to do here," she began, "because I can't allow the other children back to the procedure room, and we will need you to be with Emma."

"We've been to other EEGs before and they've always been fine," I countered.

"This is different," she explained, "because the electrodes have to stay on Emma's head for 24 hours, we use a very strong glue. I can't expose the other children to the smell."

I wasn't about to reschedule at that point. "Emma will be fine by herself then. Just hook her up, I'll stay with the others." The technician looked at me with disbelief. "No, really," I assured her, "Not much bothers Emma. She'll be your A+ patient. I promise."

One half-hour later Emma appeared with 17 electrodes super-glued to her head, a white-net stretched over-top of it all, and long blue cord leading to a blue black-pack that carried the EEG computer. "She did awesome!" the technician raved, "such a sweetie!" I had to swallow the "I told you so" that so badly wanted to answer.

"Now the net needs to stay on," the technician advised me, "but she can wear a hat over it if she feels a little self-conscious. We'll see you tomorrow at 10:30."

Even in the halls of a hospital, the stares of each person we passed felt oppressive. I smiled and confidently marched my troops to the seclusion of the nearest restroom. I soon realized that Emma was going to need assistance with keeping the cord and back-pack strings out of the potty for the next day. She itched at the dried glue on her forehead and pouted when I tried to discourage her. "Buh ih huw weh I cos my eyes (but it hurts when I close my eyes)," she whined.

"Emma," Hannah consoled her, "even with that on your head, you still look like Lucy."

Naomi disagreed, "She looks more like she's wearing a Calormin helmet with that thing sticking up in back."

Fortunately Emma napped peacefully on the way home, and played happily once we arrived. The day went quite well from that point actually, except when I hung the back-pack on Emma's chair at dinner and she tried to jump up after dinner and run off without it. That's when we found out just how strong that glue was. I put the back-pack above her head when I tucked her in bed that night to keep the cord away from her neck.

We were up even earlier Wednesday morning to get Matt to work by 8:00am, and had even more time to kill at Wal-Mart. The Disney Princess baseball cap over Emma's head net did little to discourage stares. Just what was hiding under that net? Did that poor little girl just have brain surgery or something? Thankfully Emma was utterly oblivious.

We marched back into the hospital, only to be greeted by a kind lady at B elevators holding a tray of warm, delicious-smelling chocolate-chip cookies. "Oh, here are some customers for me," she smiled, holding the tray out to my children.

"I'm sorry, we can't," I quickly replied, steering the girls away from temptation, "they have Celiac disease. So no wheat cookies for us, but thanks." I tried to keep my voice cheery, but I felt awful as the girls stood quietly on the elevator and watched the cookie lady disappear between the closing doors. "So, Emma," I changed the subject, "are you ready to get that stuff off of your head? That will sure feel good!"

We sat again watching Elmo's World after the technician took Emma back. When they reappeared Emma looked like a child who had recently been rescued from the slums. I hadn't anticipated that Kodak moment. Her hair was twisted and matted with masses of white clumps and tiny white flakes throughout. She looked like a lice-infested dumpster-dwelling child.

"Now, there's still some glue in her hair," the technician explained. Oh really? I thought that was moldy cheese. I contemplated shaving Emma's head, but the tech had a much simpler idea. "Now all you need to do is wash her hair with some acetone-based nail-polish remover..." Oh, is that all? Lovely. "...and if that doesn't work you could try some vegetable oil, sometimes that helps to loosen it." So acetone alone doesn't just eat the hair off of her head? Interesting. Then I get to slather her in vegetable oil? That should be as much fun as chasing the greased pig at the county fair. Anything else? "It's not going to come out by itself, and it will take a few washings..." I'm sure it will. "...and here's a fine-toothed come to help you scrape it out."

"Acetone, vegetable oil, comb. I think I've got it," I replied, trying to smile, as I took the knit-pick from her hand.

I would have gladly traded the sympathetic stares of strangers towards my medically-fragile child, for the horrified, condescending stares towards my neglected lice-infested child. And just how do you explain to every passing stranger that her hair had been washed only 26 hours ago, it was just slathered in super-glue and we were on our way home to bathe her in nail-polish remover? Back to the closest restroom we flew, where I tried to pull the massive rat nest of gluey hair into a pony-tail and tuck it under the Disney Princess baseball hat.

Actually, we couldn't head straight home. Matt was working a short day and it wouldn't have made any sense to drive 45 minutes each way to go home for two hours. Instead we had a picnic at a local park (where I nearly lost Toby twice), and roamed the mall for awhile before picking Matt up, all while being careful not to let the hat slip from Emma's head.

After a quick dinner I locked Emma and myself in the bathroom with the exhaust fan running while Toby pounded on the door. It took a full hour to carefully apply acetone with cotton balls to Emma's entire head and knit-pick out every flake of glue. I didn't end up needing the vegetable oil, thank goodness. Emma didn't really cry as I scraped and tugged at her head, even though she lost half a handful of hair. She whimpered pitifully and sang the word "ow" over and over to the tune of Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star. But when I put her in the bathtub and washed her hair three times in a row she lost her patience and melted down in sobs. It was a relief to everyone to tuck her in a warm bed with a clean head of hair.

The 24 hour EEG is supposed to give us more detailed information about exactly when and under what circumstances Emma's brain waves are slow, whether the condition has declined at all since last April, and whether there is any minor seizure activity we've missed before. We should get the results in about a week. I'm just hoping the nurse who calls doesn't say, "The doctor would like you to repeat this test in another 6 months."

Monday, August 15, 2011


Today I sit at my computer, watching my girls take turns pushing each other on the swing under the huge walnut tree in our backyard.  Hannah eagerly runs toward Naomi, who is pumping with all her might, with her hands outstretched, ready to help push her big sister. Then, as Naomi's body flies back toward Hannah's skinny frame and I prepare to pick up the phone and call the paramedics, Hannah reconsiders and runs from harm's way as fast as her toothpick legs can carry her. I am relieved, and then amused, but more than those I am proud. Good for Hannah! She was really trying to be kind to her sister, and with all the times I have lost my temper in frustration with my children, somehow, by God's grace, I see their little kind, loving hearts shining through more each day.

This morning I woke up to find that Naomi had already poured out the morning's juice for each of her siblings and set our their multi-vitamin pills for them to take, as I have done first thing each morning for seven years. She carefully climbed the stairs and grinned from ear to ear as she brought my juice glass and prenatal vitamin to me in bed. "Mommy, I poured the juices for everyone already! Here you go!" she announced with pride. And, even though I had trouble opening the refrigerator door because of the enormous juice puddle that had dried and sealed it shut, I was proud of her too. When she went around the house a week ago opening all the mini blinds for me, but pulled so hard on one that she broke the top rail in half, I tried to swallow that $3.96 loss with grace. She was trying to help, and that is exactly what I need.

The girls complete their chores of laundry folding and dishwasher emptying most mornings now without complaint, and sometimes without even needing to be told. The pile of bath towels sits askew from lop-sided folding, and my plastic food storage containers are often sealed together because a pair of little hands forgot to dry them before nesting them together, but I am proud none-the-less.

Today at nap time I filled Toby's sippy-cup with milk and turned him over to Hannah, who gently led her little brother upstairs, tucked him in his toddler-bed, and sang him a lullaby she had made up herself. After he fell fast asleep Naomi and I worked together to make some gf/cf bread. She read the directions and answered my smuggled-in math problems about fractions and multiplication and division of ingredients, and we all felt proud of what we had accomplished.

Yes, they still make bad decisions. Sometimes they are downright selfish, and we did have one ear-splitting fight that ended with a torn game piece this afternoon. But the point is that that isn't all of life anymore. More and more I see patience, I hear kind words, I see selfless sacrifice for others. Entire games of Chutes and Ladders go by peacefully and end with the loser congratulating the winner now. Occasionally they pick up their toys without being asked. After a scream of horror I will often hear the words, "I'm sorry for...Will you forgive me?" without me intervening at all. And in these moments I think to myself, "Wow! I only had to repeat that phrase to them 6, 187 times in order for them to pick it up! It works! They can learn to be civilized!"

I often joke that God gave me three girls first because he knew Toby would need four mothers. Now, after seven years of intensive planting, watering, weeding, and fertilizing these three little sprouts have really begun to blossom, and I am intensely thankful to the One who makes all things grow. As we all sat on my bed this morning and looked at an in-utero photograph of a 24 week-old baby, and imagined how our new baby looks right now, and looked forward to his arrival, I felt much better prepared for this baby than for any of my others. I am older, wiser, more experienced, but more than all that, I am equipped with 3 1/2 live-in helpers that I didn't have before. They can't wait to be of service, and I can't wait to reap the harvest I have so long awaited.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Song and Play the Eby Way

Here's a clip of Naomi, Hannah, and Emma pretending their Little People are their favorite characters from Narnia. The castle is the White Witch's Castle.

And here's a clip of Naomi singing a "clean-up" song as she puts away the Little People barnyard characters. Hannah and Emma sing back-up.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Skip, Skip, Skip to the Zoo

Several weeks ago I gathered my girls and told them that one of my aunts, whom they don't remember meeting three years ago, had just had major surgery for cancer. I explained to them that one of the best gifts children have is the ability to cheer others up and encourage them. The girls worked hard that afternoon on "Get Well Soon" cards to send to my aunt. A week later my aunt sent back a note thanking the girls for the cards and saying that they now hung on her refrigerator. This made the girls feel very proud, and was all the thanks they needed, but my aunt also included a sum of money to be used to treat them.

We talked over our options for using this gift: new craft supplies, new books to read, expensive food treats, or going somewhere we don't normally have the money to go. It was quickly decided that all the kids would like to use the money for admission to the zoo.  All we needed was a cool day on one of Matt's days off of work. Today met those conditions beautifully.

Everyone rushed through our morning routine, eager to greet this exciting day. They bounced with excitement in their car seats, and ran and shouted up to the admissions gate. The first exhibit we came to housed an enormous tiger, pacing round and round his confines. He would walk up to the window where we stood, stare us in the eyes, just inches from our faces, and then walk 'round again. On his last trip around before we moved on he stopped in front of Toby and yawned, stretching his gigantic mouth open enough to swallow Toby in two bites. Matt and I were as excited as the kids at this grand opening to our adventure, and I forgot to get my camera out.

Next door was a white tiger, lazily sleeping in the sun. The only show we got from this one was watching him roll to his back and snooze belly-up in the grass.

Soon we met the camels, visited a koi pond, and spotted two red pandas napping in a pine tree. They playful river otters amused us for nearly half-an-hour, and the bobcat growling as it ate its mice was an impressive sight. "There's Aslan!" Naomi announced as we passed the male lions, lying on the rocks.

A cage full of skittering little monkeys apparently inspired Toby, as he scaled the chain-link fence around their exhibit. When the girls saw me laugh and grab the camera, they, of course, had to climb too. We admired wallabies, silently watched a giant alligator sniff a dead rabbit, and laughed at the tiny tortoise who was turned on its back and left to wiggle by his ticked-off tank-mate. And when our eyes and our hearts were full of animals we headed to the enormous playground just outside the gates.

They climbed. They slid. They swung, and jumped, and laughed. They found a merry-go-round, something I haven't seen at a park in years, and went around and around again. And when the day was over Naomi summed up with, "Well...that sure was worth it!" It sure was. Besides, Matt and I had no trouble getting the kids to bed tonight. A perfect ending for a perfect day.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

An Eby Week

It's been such a calm few weeks--no major crises, no hilarious milestones--that people have begun asking me why I'm not posting more often. I guess it's taken me a week to pile up enough Eby family happenings that I feel like it's worthy of a post. Here's this week's run-down:

Toby succeeded in placing a bowel movement in the potty once this week. Great rounds of cheering and applause ensued while we all gathered around to congratulate him. Grinning with pride, he announced to his fans, "And it looks like a banana!" Well, yes, it did.

Hannah ran into the kitchen with excitement one afternoon to inform me, "Mommy, when I stab an empty cereal box with a sharp pencil it works just like a Narnian sword, and it actually pokes a hole in the box! It really does! A real hole in the box, just like a Narnian sword!"

To which I responded, "That's exciting, Hannah, but please be careful how you wield your sword or it will poke a real hole in you."

She sighed back at me, "Oh, Mommy," as she left the kitchen. Not three minutes later she ran back into the kitchen screaming, "Oh, it's blood! It really is! It's real blood! I saw it! It's red! Oh!" I coaxed her to uncurl her right hand from its grip on her left ring finger, and saw a blue dot of graphite near her nail with a tiny drop of blood on it." I, of course, cracked up laughing. "Don't, Mommy!" Hannah scolded, "Don't laugh like that! It really hurts."

I led her to the bathroom for repairs as I remarked, "Yep, real swords draw real blood, I think I warned you about that."

"Well," she scowled, "That's the thing about practice, you know."

One night I announced that I was making pancakes for dinner (gf/cf, of course). This announcement was followed by cheers of approval from my three girls. While they were whooping and dancing for joy, Toby caught the spirit of appreciation and thanked me with, "I like this dinner, Mommy. I'm so proud of you for this dinner, Mommy!"

Yesterday was a big day for me. Matt's car still being too sick to drive, I had to wake four sleepy children before 7:00am, dress them, groom them, and load their sleepy heads in the van with baggies of cereal for breakfast. We dropped Matt at work at 8:00, hit Wal-Mart from 8:15-9:15, then headed to Emma's allergy consultation at 10:00.

I had everyone use the potty before we checked in. The waiting room was tiny and packed. Toby bounced, growled, climbed, and wiggled for 40 minutes while I grew more and more frazzled from trying to keep him off of strangers' laps. When we were finally called back Naomi quietly sat and read a Highlights magazine, Hannah listened intently to the how-to's of de-molding a wet basement, but Toby and Emma had had enough. "I need to go potty!" Toby announced. There was no restroom available for our use less than half a block away, so I asked him to wait. "I nee go pah-ee ooh! (I need go potty too)" Emma echoed. The allergist tried to hurry her explanation, but Toby had his pants down within a minute. I quickly pulled them back up only to turn and see that Emma had her pants down now as well. Thankfully, the allergist laughed, admitting she had four young children at home. "I'm glad it's not just my family," she added. I am glad too. Toby and Emma both made it to the restroom.

Back home I was low on groceries and had to whip up homemade chicken nuggets and french fries from frozen chicken breasts and three russet potatoes. It worked wonderfully well. Next up was installing new mini-blinds to replace the ones Naomi had destroyed while over-zealously opening them for me. Then we headed outside for awhile to plant some mums I had picked out at Wal-Mart, where I had to multi-task planting, chatting with the neighbors, and keeping Toby out of the highway. After cleaning everyone up and downing a quick half-cup of coffee we were back in the van heading to pick Matt up from work. Back at home I created homemade sweet-and-sour chicken stir-fry, cleaned the kitchen, and packed Matt's lunch for the next day. While Matt put the kids to bed I rammed the lawn-mower through the gigantic weed-patch we call our yard, then topped the day off by heading to the grocery store. I pulled back in our drive at 11pm and dropped in bed at midnight.

What did I do today? Today was a day of rest. Of course that includes catching up on the laundry and dishes that fell by the wayside yesterday, making the usual two meals from scratch, and cleaning up Toby's perpetual puddle by the toilet, but I feel rested tonight. Rested enough, at least, to catch you up on another week at the Eby house.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kids of Gluten-Free Catan

With Matt's car temporarily out of comission, and Matt driving the van to work everyday, I have been unusually homebound and bored. After an evening playing Settlers of Catan with some family, it occured to me that it might be both fun and educational for my girls and I to play this game together. Unfortunately the game costs roughly as much as a new car, so we decided to make one instead.

Yup, I had a lot of time on my hands and some kids who love to help with craft projects. So we spent a day and a half cutting hexagons from old cereal boxes and contruction paper, cutting out cards and buildings and cities and roads, coloring with markers, and "laminating" it all with packaging tape. I estimate the cost was about $1.50 in paper and tape, plus roughly 11 hours labor. Naomi and I agreed that it was well worth the expense. And, since we made it ourselves we were able to make a gluten-free island, with rice as the grain instead of wheat. The game turned out quite well, and the girls and I played our first game this afternoon while Toby napped. I won, but they're getting the hang of it and can't wait to play again.

We rounded out the evening with some fresh-from-the-fields sweet corn, and couldn't wait to tell Daddy about our day! Most importantly the girls got a lesson in creativity and spent a whole day working with Mom. It doesn't get much sweeter than that.